Can a person’s food choices contribute to type 2 diabetes? A new study has linked poor diet to 14 million cases of type 2 diabetes globally.
Researchers at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University found that around 70% of new diabetes diagnoses in 2018 were due to improper diet.
Type 2 diabetes is a long-term health condition, which occurs when the body cells fail to respond normally to insulin due to insulin resistance.
Here are the most common symptoms to watch out for:
- Frequent urination
- Increased thirst and hunger
- Blurred vision
- Unintentional weight loss
- Frequent infections
- Tingling or numbness in hands or feet
- Feeling tired
- Slow healing wounds
- Repeated yeast infections
- Darkened skin in armpits and neck
Certain factors increase the risk of getting type 2 diabetes:
- People who are over the age of 45
- People who have other health conditions like blood pressure, heart disease and polycystic ovary syndrome
- Family history of diabetes
- Diabetes during pregnancy
- High triglycerides and low HDL cholestrol
The growing burden of diabetes
According to National Diabetes Statistics Report, around 37.3 million Americans live with diabetes, out of which 23% go undiagnosed.
The new study, published in Nature Medicine, analyzed data from 184 countries and found an increase in type 2 diabetes cases between 1990 and 2018.
“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 health inequities worldwide,” study author Meghan O’Hearn said.
Food that makes up a poor diet
Researchers evaluated how diet choices impacted type 2 diabetes and found certain food contributed more to the disease.
Out of 11 factors analyzed by the researchers, three stood out as leading contributors to diabetes – the excessive intake of refined rice and wheat, insufficient consumption of whole grains and overconsumption of processed meat.
The study pointed out that seven out of 10 cases of type 2 diabetes worldwide in 2018 were linked to food choices.
“The analysis revealed 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,” the researchers said in a news release.
Geographical areas where people consumed more red meat, processed meat and potatoes had the greatest number of type 2 diabetes cases linked to diet.
The areas where the diet includes sugary drinks, processed meat and a low intake of whole grains also showed an increase in diabetes cases linked to a poor diet. However, the researchers found that factors like drinking too much fruit juice and not eating enough non-starchy vegetables, nuts, or seeds had less impact on new cases.
“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, a Jean Mayer professor of nutrition and dean for policy at the Friedman School. “These new findings reveal critical areas for national and global focus to improve nutrition and reduce devastating burdens of diabetes.”
The researchers hope the findings “can help inform nutritional priorities for clinicians, policymakers, and private sector actors as they encourage healthier dietary choices that address this global epidemic.”