14 million cases of type 2 diabetes linked to these foods, study says

An estimated 14 million cases of type 2 diabetes were caused by a poor diet, a recent study published in Nature Medicine found.

Diets that lacked whole grains or had too much refined rice, wheat or processed meats were linked to the disease.

Those that included overconsumption of fruit juice or insufficient amounts of non-starchy vegetables, nuts or seeds also had some impact on diagnoses, though not as much.

The rise of type 2 diabetes cases represents “a growing burden on individuals, families, and healthcare systems,” a press release noted.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the pancreas fails to produce enough insulin, impeding the body’s ability to regulate and use sugar as fuel.

More than 37 million Americans — about 1 in 10 — already have incurable diabetes, making it the seventh leading cause of death in the nation. 

In the new study, researchers at Tufts University analyzed the diets of 184 countries worldwide using data from 1990 and 2018, revealing that more than 70% of new diagnoses in 2018 were believed to have been caused by unhealthy dietary patterns.

More than 70% of new type 2 diabetes diagnoses in 2018 were believed to have been caused by unhealthy dietary patterns.

Of the 184 countries included in the study, all reported a rise in type 2 diabetes in the nearly 30 years that were analyzed.

There is no cure for diabetes but a myriad of recommended lifestyle changes to help manage the condition, such as losing weight, exercising and eating well.

The research focused on 11 dietary factors and concluded that three had a disturbing influence on the rise of diabetes diagnoses.

Whole wheat bread
Diets that included insufficient amounts of whole grains were found to be linked to the increasing number of type 2 diabetes diagnoses.

“Our study suggests poor carbohydrate quality is a leading driver of diet-attributable type 2 diabetes globally, and with important variation by nation and over time,” said senior author Dariush Mozaffarian.

“These new findings reveal critical areas for national and global focus to improve nutrition and reduce devastating burdens of diabetes.”

The analysis also found that poor diets are leading to a larger proportion of men versus women, younger versus older adults, and urban versus rural residents being diagnosed with the chronic disease.

Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia were found to have the highest rates of type 2 diabetes cases linked to diet.

Researchers noted that was likely due to data from countries including Poland and Russia, where diets were reported to incorporate high amounts of red meat, processed meat and potatoes.

“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,” study author Meghan O’Hearn explained.

“These findings can help inform nutritional priorities for clinicians, policymakers, and private sector actors as they encourage healthier dietary choices that address this global epidemic.”

Overconsumption of rice and wheat was also found to have an oversized connection to the chronic disease.
A collection of cold meats and vienna on a wooden board in a studio
Eating large quantities of processed meats was another major factor that research correlated to type 2 diabetes.

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This informational study comes as experts warn that type 2 diabetes cases are on track to surge 700% in young Americans.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health alerted the public that the number of young Americans with type 2 diabetes is projected to skyrocket nearly 700% by 2060 if current upward trends continue unchecked.


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