Trans fatty acids (TFAs) have harmful biologic effects that could increase the risk of type 2 diabetes (T2D), but evidence remains uncertain. We aimed to investigate the prospective associations of TFA biomarkers and T2D by conducting an individual participant-level pooled analysis.


We included data from an international consortium of 12 prospective cohorts and nested case-control studies from six nations. TFA biomarkers were measured in blood collected between 1990 and 2008 from 25,126 participants aged ≥18 years without prevalent diabetes. Each cohort conducted de novo harmonized analyses using a prespecified protocol, and findings were pooled using inverse-variance weighted meta-analysis. Heterogeneity was explored by prespecified between-study and within-study characteristics.


During a mean follow-up of 13.5 years, 2,843 cases of incident T2D were identified. In multivariable-adjusted pooled analyses, no significant associations with T2D were identified for trans/trans-18:2, relative risk (RR) 1.09 (95% CI 0.94–1.25); cis/trans-18:2, 0.89 (0.73–1.07); and trans/cis-18:2, 0.87 (0.73–1.03). Trans-16:1n-9, total trans-18:1, and total trans-18:2 were inversely associated with T2D (RR 0.81 [95% CI 0.67–0.99], 0.86 [0.75–0.99], and 0.84 [0.74–0.96], respectively). Findings were not significantly different according to prespecified sources of potential heterogeneity (each P ≥ 0.1).


Circulating individual trans-18:2 TFA biomarkers were not associated with risk of T2D, while trans-16:1n-9, total trans-18:1, and total trans-18:2 were inversely associated. Findings may reflect the influence of mixed TFA sources (industrial vs. natural ruminant), a general decline in TFA exposure due to policy changes during this period, or the relatively limited range of TFA levels.

This article contains supplementary material online at https://doi.org/10.2337/figshare.18396443.

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