Fatty acid profile of the erythrocyte membrane preceding development of Type 2 diabetes mellitus

Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2008 Sep;18(7):503-10. doi: 10.1016/j.numecd.2007.04.005. Epub 2007 Nov 26.


Background and aims: The respective roles of dietary fatty acids in the pathogenesis of diabetes are as yet unclear. Erythrocyte membrane fatty acid (EMFA) composition may provide an estimate of dietary fatty acid intake. This study investigates the relation between EMFA composition and development of Type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Methods and results: In a nested case-referent design we studied 159 individuals tested as non-diabetic at baseline who after a mean observation time of 5.4+/-2.6years were diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes mellitus and 291 sex- and age-matched referents. Higher proportions of pentadecanoic acid (15:0) and heptadecanoic acid (17:0) were associated with a lower risk of diabetes. In accordance with earlier findings, higher proportions of palmitoleic (16:1 n-7), dihomo-gamma-linolenic (20:3 n-6) and adrenic (22:4 n-6) acids were associated with increased risk, whereas linoleic (18:2 n-6) and clupanodonic (22:5 n-3) acids were inversely associated with diabetes. After adjustment for BMI, HbA1c, alcohol intake, smoking and physical activity the only significant predictors were 15:0 and 17:0 as protective factors and 22:4 n6 as risk factor.

Conclusion: In accordance with previous studies, our results indicate that EMFA-patterns predict development of Type 2 diabetes mellitus. The inverse association with two saturated fatty acids, previously shown to reflect consumption of dairy products, is a new finding.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / blood*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / epidemiology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / etiology
  • Dietary Fats / administration & dosage
  • Dietary Fats / metabolism
  • Erythrocyte Membrane / chemistry*
  • Fatty Acids / analysis*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Insulin / blood
  • Male
  • Membrane Lipids / analysis*
  • Middle Aged
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Risk Factors
  • Time Factors


  • Blood Glucose
  • Dietary Fats
  • Fatty Acids
  • Insulin
  • Membrane Lipids