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Fast-Food Fat Buster May Drop Diabetes Risk

Additive Could Help Avoid Type 2 Diabetes -- but Not Cut Calories
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Targeting Saturated Fat

Yokoyama sees a link between saturated fat and type 2 diabetes. "We're interested in preventing type 2 diabetes," he tells WebMD.

When people eat a lot of saturated fats at once, the body can get overwhelmed, he explains.

"In more detail, we think saturated fats will block the transport of glucose (blood sugar) from the bloodstream into tissues," says Yokoyama. That raises blood sugar levels, driving up demand for insulin to handle the blood sugar spike.

Polyunsaturated fats -- found in plant-based foods -- don't have the same effect, he adds. The researchers fed hamsters a diet high in saturated or polyunsaturated fats. The saturated-fat hamsters developed insulin resistance, but the polyunsaturated group didn't.

A saturated fat binge can also swamp parts of the body not designed for the overload. That includes the liver, heart, and pancreas; pancreatic damage can lead to diabetes, the news release states.

Testing HPMC

For years, Yokoyama and colleagues looked for a solution using natural fiber from oats and barley. When that didn't work as they hoped, they shifted gears.

"Those natural [fibers] are kind of fragile," he explains. "We were looking for something a little more stable and more easily controlled, and so we thought we would try HPMC."

They fed a group of hamsters a high-fat diet similar to what many Americans eat. The hamsters got about 38% of their calories from fat and developed insulin resistance. Meanwhile, hamsters on a low-fat diet didn't become insulin resistant.

A third group of hamsters got a saturated fat diet with HPMC. This time, the hamsters didn't get insulin resistance.

However, they did gain a bit more weight than hamsters on a healthier diet. Exactly how HPMC works isn't known, but scientists guess it may slow down fat absorption.

HPMC is made by the Dow Chemical Company, but the study was entirely funded by the USDA. Yokoyama presented the findings in San Diego, at a national meeting of the American Chemical Society. He credits his colleagues, including the University of Minnesota's chemical engineering and materials science professor Wei-Shou Hu, PhD, for their work.

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