BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Fatty acids are important cellular constituents that may affect many metabolic processes relevant for the development of diabetes and its complications. We showed previously that vegetarian diet leads to greater increase in metabolic clearance rate of glucose (MCR) than conventional hypocaloric diet. The aim of this secondary analysis was to explore the role of changes in fatty acid composition of serum phospholipids in diet- and exercise-induced changes in MCR in subjects with type 2 diabetes (T2D).METHODS: Subjects with T2D (n=74) were randomly assigned into a vegetarian group (VG, n=37) following vegetarian diet or a control group (CG, n=37) following a conventional diet. Both diets were calorie restricted (-500 kcal day(-1)). Participants were examined at baseline, 12 weeks of diet intervention and 24 weeks (subsequent 12 weeks of diet were combined with aerobic exercise). The fatty acid composition of serum phospholipids was measured by gas liquid chromatography. MCR was measured by hyperinsulinemic isoglycemic clamp. Visceral fat (VF) was measured by magnetic resonance imaging. RESULTS: Linoleic acid (LA; 18:2n6) increased in VG (P=0.04), whereas it decreased in CG (P=0.04) in response to dietary interventions. It did not change significantly after the addition of exercise in either group (group × time P<0.001). In VG, changes in 18:2n6 correlated positively with changes in MCR (r=+0.22; P=0.04) and negatively with changes in VF (r=-0.43; P=0.01). After adjustment for changes in body mass index, the association between 18:2n6 and MCR was no longer significant. The addition of exercise resulted in greater changes of phospholipid fatty acids composition in VG than in CG. CONCLUSION: We demonstrated that the insulin-sensitizing effect of a vegetarian diet might be related to the increased proportion of LA in serum phospholipids.