Comparison of a Carbohydrate-Rich Diet and Diets Rich in Stearic or Palmitic Acid in NIDDM Patients: Effects on lipids, glycemic control, and diurnal blood pressure

  1. Kjeld Hermansen, MD, DMSC
  1. Department of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Aarhus Amtssygehus, Aarhus University Hospital Aarhus, Denmark
  1. Address correspondence and reprint requests to Kjeld Hermansen, MD, DMSc, Aarhus University Hospital, Department of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Århus Amtssygehus, Tage Hansens gade 2, DK-8000 Aarhus C, Denmark.


OBJECTIVE To compare the effects on lipid levels, glycemic control, and diurnal blood pressure of two diets rich in one of the two quantitatively most important saturated fatty acids, stearic and palmitic acid, with a carbohydrate-rich diet in NIDDM patients.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS A total of 15 NIDDM patients participated in a randomized crossover study with three 3-week diet interventions separated by 2-week washout periods. Patients started with a diet rich in stearic acid (44 E% [percent of total energy] fat [13 E% stearic acid], 40 E% carbohydrate, 15 E% protein), palmitic acid (45 E% fat [16 E% palmitic acid], 40 E% carbohydrate, 15 E% protein), or carbohydrate (29 E% fat, 51 E% carbohydrate, and 18 E% protein), then were shifted to the other two diets in a randomized block design. At the start and end of each intervention period, fasting blood samples were drawn for analysis of lipids and blood glucose. In addition, diurnal blood pressure was measured.

RESULTS At the end of the 3-week interventions, total cholesterol was significantly higher after the palmitic acid-rich diet than after the stearic acid-rich or carbohydrate-rich diets (5.3 ± 1.3 vs. 5.0 ± 1.2 and 4.9 ± 1.2 mmol/l, respectively; P = 0.03). No significant differences in triglyceride, LDL, or HDL cholesterol levels were seen after the three intervention diets. No difference in effects between the diet periods were seen for fructosamine, HbA1c, fasting blood glucose, or diurnal blood pressure.

CONCLUSIONS For the first time, it has been demonstrated that a diet rich in palmitic acid was not as effective in lowering cholesterol levels as carbohydrate-rich and stearic acid-rich diets in NIDDM patients. No deleterious effects were seen on diurnal blood pressure, triglyceride levels, and glycemic control. Development of foods containing stearic acid rather than the more atherogenic saturated fatty acids may allow a wider choice of acceptable foods to NIDDM patients.

  • Received January 6, 1997.
  • Revision received August 7, 1997.
  • Accepted August 7, 1997.
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