Diet, heart disease and diabetes: What’s the connection?

Certain vegetable oil-based products may increase heart complications in diabetics, says UBC researcher Sanjoy Ghosh.

Eating your vegetables is widely publicized as a way to prevent heart disease and maintain a healthy weight, but how healthy is the cooking oil derived from some of those vegetables?

Researcher Sanjoy Ghosh, assistant professor of biology with the Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences at UBC’s Okanagan campus, has received funding from the Canadian Diabetes Foundation to investigate the role omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) play in the development of heart disease in people with diabetes. These PUFAs are found in high levels in certain vegetable cooking products like corn and sunflower oils.

“Over the last decades, our consumption of saturated fats like those found in meat has decreased and our consumption of vegetable fats has increased, but the incidence of obesity and related health concerns like diabetes and heart disease continues to climb,” says Ghosh.

“In the last 30 years, there has been a trend away from consumption of animal fats like those found in butter and lard, toward more vegetable-oil based products like margarine, vegetable shortening and corn oil. Our bodies simply don’t know how to respond to such a diet, which is unprecedented in our evolutionary history. We are now seeing evidence that this trend may in fact be harmful for people suffering from metabolic diseases like obesity and diabetes.”

To study the issue, Ghosh and his research team will feed diabetic mice a sunflower or corn oil-based diet (rich in omega-6 PUFA) to evaluate metabolic stress and heart function. They will then supplement the diet with beneficial fats found in fish oil (omega-3 PUFA) or canola oil (high in beneficial monounsaturates) to determine if this will reduce the damaging effects of the vegetable oil diet.

The Scholar Award is offered annually by the Canadian Diabetes Foundation as part of its Senior Personnel Awards Competition, which supports new research faculty to enhance the understanding of diabetes and its prevention, causes, cure and management.

This year, the Foundation granted one such award in the country, and Ghosh received it. The award pays $100,000 annually over the next five years to cover salary and research-related expenses, and will enable Ghosh to continue his groundbreaking research into the role diet plays in the complications experienced by people with diabetes.

The ongoing results of Ghosh’s research will help identify ways by which simple dietary changes can potentially prevent or reduce
diabetes-related heart disease
in Canada.

Related topics:

UBC Reports | Vol. 57 | No. 3 | Mar. 2, 2011

Swagata Halder, Graduate Student (left), Dr. Sanjoy Ghosh (right), Laura Baker, Undergraduate Honours Thesis Student (middle). Photo by Jody Jacob

Swagata Halder, Graduate Student (left), Dr. Sanjoy Ghosh (right), Laura Baker, Undergraduate Honours Thesis Student (middle). Photo by Jody Jacob

Share This

Deanna Roberts is an information communications specialist with the Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences.

“Our bodies simply don’t know how to respond to such a diet, which is unprecedented in our evolutionary history.”

More stories from this issue

a place of mind, The University of British Columbia

UBC Public Affairs
310 - 6251 Cecil Green Park Road
Vancouver, BC
Canada V6T 1Z1
Tel: 604.822.3131
Fax: 604.822.2684
E-mail: public.affairs@ubc.ca

Emergency Procedures | Accessibility | Contact UBC | © Copyright The University of British Columbia