A five-course breakfast to track risk factors for type 2 diabetes

August 24 2018 | Diabetes

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In the eyes of many, sugar alone is responsible for developing type 2 diabetes. However, particles carrying bad cholesterol in the blood can also act as its accomplices. In fact, this combination can be more harmful, as it also increases the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.

May Faraj, a researcher at the Montreal Clinical Research Institute (IRCM), focuses her work on this phenomenon. She aims at helping people who have a higher risk of developing these two health problems. To achieve this, participants in her study are offered a special five-course breakfast meal.

A double-edged risk
When ingested in reasonable quantities, sugar is an essential source of energy for our body. As it enters the bloodstream, it accesses our cells with the help of insulin. Cells can then use sugar to function.

However, sometimes sugar is not able to reach its destination, as it is blocked...  by fat. In some people, instead of being accumulated in fat tissue, the fat consumed from food is stored in other tissues such as the liver. Among other harmful effects, the accumulation of fat in the liver increases the production of particles responsible for transporting the bad cholesterol. Over time, these particles further decrease the body's ability to use dietary sugar and fat.

“Subjects in whom this mechanism occurs face greater health risks,” says May Faraj, Director of IRCM Nutrition, Lipoproteins and Cardiometabolic Diseases Research Unit. “On the one hand, the fact that the body cannot assimilate sugar and fat properly can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. On the other hand, a high number of particles carrying bad cholesterol in the blood increases the risk of both type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.”

Bacon, cheese, croissant, pastries and...
Dr. Faraj currently directs a clinical study at the IRCM that aims at reducing risk factors for these 2 metabolic diseases in susceptible subjects. Her team examines different metabolic parameters of the study participants including energy expenditure, fat tissue function, blood lipid profile, and insulin secretion and action.  
The IRCM group also studies how the body assimilates the fat that comes from food. To do this, during one of the study’s 11 visits, participants start their day with a delicious meal: bacon, pastry, cheese, croissant... and a special oil. The ingredient in this oil, C13, acts as a snitch to track the fate of the ingested fat. As such, the team can examine if the fat is used correctly or if it remains in the blood.

Through her research, Dr. Faraj hopes to find an innovative preventative measure to help subjects who are at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. One of the solutions currently studied in her research unit is already very popular in the nutrition community: omega-3 fatty acids, a type of fat found in fish oils.

Research volunteers needed
The team of May Faraj is looking for adult volunteers to participate in their clinical study. Here are the eligibility criteria:

  • Man: from 45 to 74 years old
  • Postmenopausal women: from 45 to 74 years old (without hormone replacement therapy)
  • Non-smoking
  • Without diabetes or heart diseases
  • Available for the duration of the study (7 one-hour visits and 4 one-day visits, spread over 18 weeks)

Those interested in participating in the study can contact Marie Devaux, research nurse, at the following number: 514 987-5500 ext. 3314 or at



On the picture, from left to right: Valérie Lamantia, PhD student, Simon Bissonnette, PhD student, May Faraj, Marie Devaux, research nurse, Yannick Cyr, PhD student