Impact of isocaloric exchanges of carbohydrate for fat on postprandial glucose, insulin, triglycerides, and free fatty acid responses—a systematic review and meta-analysis


Varying the macronutrient composition of meals alters acute postprandial responses, but the effect sizes for specific macronutrient exchanges have not been quantified by systematic reviews. Therefore the aim is to quantify the effect size of exchanging fat for carbohydrates in mixed meals on postprandial glucose (PPG), insulin (PPI), triglycerides (PPTG), and free fatty acids (PPFFA) responses by performing a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. A systematic literature search was undertaken on randomized controlled trials comparing isocaloric high fat with high carbohydrate meals, with comparable protein contents and at least one postprandial glycemic- and one lipid outcome. The outcome data were extracted and expressed as mean postprandial levels over 2 h. Ten studies involving 14 comparisons met the eligibility criteria. Data were available for meta-analysis from 347 participants, consuming mixed meals containing 250–1003 kcal, and total fat contents of 33.3–75.6 percentage of energy (en%) (intervention) versus 0–31.7 en% (control). Each 10en% increase in fat, replacing carbohydrates produced a mean reduction in PPG of 0.32 mmol/l (95% CI −0.64 to −0.00, p = 0.047), a reduction in PPI of 18.2 pmol/l (95% CI −24.86 to −11.54), an increase in PPTG of 0.06 mmol/l (95% CI 0.02 to 0.09, p = 0.004), with no statistically significant effect on PPFFA. Modest exchange of carbohydrates for fats in mixed meals significantly reduces PPG and PPI and increases PPTG responses. The quantitative relationships derived here may be applied to predict responses, and to design and optimize meal macronutrient compositions in dietary intervention studies.

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The authors thank Harry H Hiemstra, Ewoud A Schuring, Carolien Ruijgrok for their statistical support.

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Correspondence to Anoush Kdekian.

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At the time this research was carried out, MA, EAT, DJM, AG, MAV were employees of Unilever, which produces and markets consumer food products, and AK was an MSc student at Unilever and Wageningen University. EvdB is an employee of Danone Nutricia Research.

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Kdekian, A., Alssema, M., Van Der Beek, E.M. et al. Impact of isocaloric exchanges of carbohydrate for fat on postprandial glucose, insulin, triglycerides, and free fatty acid responses—a systematic review and meta-analysis. Eur J Clin Nutr 74, 1–8 (2020).

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