The association between n-3 PUFA intake and type 2 diabetes (T2D) is unclear, and studies relating objective biomarkers of n-3 PUFA consumption to diabetic status remain limited. The aim of this study was to determine whether erythrocyte n-3 PUFA levels (n-3 index; n-3I) are associated with T2D in a cohort of older adults (n 608). To achieve this, the n-3I (erythrocyte %EPA+%DHA) was determined by GC and associated with fasting blood glucose; HbA1c; and plasma insulin. Insulin resistance (IR) was assessed using the homeostatic model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA--IR). OR for T2D were calculated for each quartile of n-3I. In all, eighty-two type 2 diabetic (46·3 % female; 76·7 (sd 5·9) years) and 466 non-diabetic (57·9 % female; 77·8 (sd 7·1) years) individuals were included in the analysis. In overweight/obese (BMI≥27 kg/m2), the prevalence of T2D decreased across ascending n-3I quartiles: 1·0 (reference), 0·82 (95 % CI 0·31, 2·18), 0·56 (95 % CI 0·21, 1·52) and 0·22 (95 % CI 0·06, 0·82) (P
trend=0·015). A similar but non-significant trend was seen in overweight men. After adjusting for BMI, no associations were found between n-3I and fasting blood glucose, HbA1c, insulin or HOMA-IR. In conclusion, higher erythrocyte n-3 PUFA status may be protective against the development of T2D in overweight women. Further research is warranted to determine whether dietary interventions that improve n-3 PUFA status can improve measures of IR, and to further elucidate sex-dependent differences.