The prevalence of type 2 diabetes is increasing continuously, especially in older people. Such a rapidly rising risk has been linked to physical inactivity and evolutionary changes in dietary patterns (mainly characterized by a greater intake in dietary fat). Increased physical activity in any age group is associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Epidemiological studies also reported a lower incidence of type 2 diabetes in individuals who consumed n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), while intake of total, saturated and/or monounsaturated fat was associated with increased risk of type 2 diabetes in glucose-intolerant individuals. Furthermore, the beneficial effects of PUFA consumption on cardiovascular disease were mainly attributed to their effects on reducing triglyceride levels, increasing high density lipoprotein cholesterol, and improving endothelial function through anti-inflammatory mechanisms and reduced platelet aggregation. In addition to common diabetic complications such as dyslipidemia and cardiovascular disease, elderly people with type 2 diabetes are at greater risk of specific geriatric syndromes, such as cognitive decline and physical disability. The threats of physical disability, loss of independence and loss of cognitive performance which diminish quality of life may ultimately be the greatest concern for those with type 2 diabetes. In this review we will address: i) specific dietary fat intake patterns and the development of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, ii) the effects of PUFA supplementation on glucose metabolism, diabetic dyslipidemia and cardiovascular disease, iii) the potential advantages of PUFA supplementation on cognitive decline and physical disability in the elderly.
Keywords: Aging, insulin resistance, Type 2 diabetes, polyunsaturated fatty acids, cognitive decline, disability