While diet quality significantly affects your diabetes risk, studies show that dietary fat intake, in general, does not significantly increase this risk.

Q: Does eating a very low fat diet prevent diabetes?

Your diabetes risk is influenced by a variety of factors, including what you eat, your body weight, and even your genes. Your food choices, in particular, may offer significant protection against the development of type 2 diabetes.

It’s well known that diets high in overall calories promote weight gain, insulin resistance, and blood sugar dysregulation, which can increase diabetes risk (1).

Because fat is the most calorie-dense macronutrient, it makes sense that following a lower fat diet may help reduce this risk. However, studies show that your overall diet quality has a much greater influence on diabetes prevention than how much of each macronutrient you eat.

For example, research shows that dietary patterns high in refined grains, processed meats, and added sugar significantly increase diabetes risk. Meanwhile, diets rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and healthy fats like olive oil protect against diabetes development (2).

While it’s clear that diet quality significantly affects diabetes risk, studies show that dietary fat intake, in general, does not significantly increase this risk.

A 2019 study in 2,139 people found that neither animal nor plant-based dietary fat intake was significantly associated with diabetes development (3).

There’s also no solid evidence that diets higher in cholesterol from foods like eggs and full fat dairy significantly increase diabetes risk (3).

What’s more, studies show that both low carb, high fat diets and low fat, high protein diets are beneficial for blood sugar control, adding to the confusion (4).

Unfortunately, dietary recommendations tend to focus on single macronutrients, such as fats or carbs, rather than the overall quality of your diet.

Instead of following a very low fat or very low carb diet, try concentrating on improving your diet quality in general. The best way to prevent diabetes is to consume a nutrient-rich diet that’s high in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, protein, and healthy fat sources.

Jillian Kubala

Jillian Kubala is a Registered Dietitian based in Westhampton, NY. Jillian holds a master’s degree in nutrition from Stony Brook University School of Medicine as well as an undergraduate degree in nutrition science. Aside from writing for Healthline Nutrition, she runs a private practice based on the east end of Long Island, NY, where she helps her clients achieve optimal wellness through nutritional and lifestyle changes. Jillian practices what she preaches, spending her free time tending to her small farm that includes vegetable and flower gardens and a flock of chickens. Reach out to her through her website or on Instagram.