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Majority of type 2 diabetes cases are linked to poor diets

Poor carbohydrate quality appears to be a leading driver of diet-attributable type 2 diabetes globally.

Fish and chips is Britain's national dish but industry bosses warn the war in Ukraine and sanctions on Russia could tip many hard-pressed shops over the edge
Fish and chips is Britain's national dish but industry bosses warn the war in Ukraine and sanctions on Russia could tip many hard-pressed shops over the edge - Copyright AFP ADRIAN DENNIS
Fish and chips is Britain's national dish but industry bosses warn the war in Ukraine and sanctions on Russia could tip many hard-pressed shops over the edge - Copyright AFP ADRIAN DENNIS

A new study links poor diet to type 2 diabetes. This is based on an assessment of 14.1 million cases of type 2 diabetes globally (drawn from 184 countries). The Tufts University review found 7 out of 10 cases of type 2 diabetes worldwide are linked to food choices.

The analysis looked at data from 1990 and 2018, drawn from the Global Dietary Database. Across the data set, 11 dietary factors were considered. Of these, three factors were found to make a significant contribution to the rising global incidence of type 2 diabetes.

The condition can cause symptoms like excessive thirst, needing to urinate a lot and tiredness. It can also increase your risk of getting serious problems with your eyes, heart and nerves.

These factors were: Insufficient intake of whole grains, excesses of refined rice and wheat, and the overconsumption of processed meat.

Other factors, including drinking too much fruit juice or not eating sufficient quantities of non-starchy vegetables, nuts, or seeds, were found to have less of an impact on new cases of the disease.

Therefore poor carbohydrate quality appears to be a leading driver of diet-attributable type 2 diabetes globally.

The researchers suggest the findings should feed into policy development relating to national and global initiatives designed to improve nutrition and hence reduce the burdens of diabetes upon healthcare systems. Type 2 diabetes is characterized by the resistance of the body’s cells to insulin.

Drilling down the data, the analysis reveals that poor diet is causing a larger proportion of total type 2 diabetes incidence in men versus women, in younger versus older adults, and in urban versus rural residents at the global level.

Regionally, Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia, especially in Poland and Russia, where diets tend to be rich in red meat, processed meat, and potatoes, had the greatest number of type 2 diabetes cases linked to diet.

Incidence is also high in Latin America and the Caribbean, especially in Colombia and Mexico, where there is a high consumption of sugary drinks, processed meat, and low intake of whole grains.

Of the 30 most populated countries studied, India, Nigeria, and Ethiopia had the fewest case of type 2 diabetes related to unhealthy eating.

According to lead researcher Meghan O’Hearn: “Left unchecked and with incidence only projected to rise, type 2 diabetes will continue to impact population health, economic productivity, health care system capacity, and drive heath inequities worldwide.”

The research has been published in the journal Nature Medicine, titled “Incident type 2 diabetes attributable to suboptimal diet in 184 countries.”

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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