Type 2 diabetes is among the most common chronic diseases in the US. A new analysis of dietary data from American health care professionals suggests you can lower your risk for diabetes. To do so, you must improve your dietary pattern.
Which Dietary Patterns Have a Lower Risk for Diabetes?
The scientists analyzed data from more than 200,000 participants in long-running observational studies (ASN 2020 Annual Meeting online). More than 150,000 women volunteered their data in the Nurses’ Health Study and Nurses’ Health Study 2. In addition, over 40,000 men participated in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. All of these volunteers provided their dietary data every few years for decades.
Diabetes researchers have long suspected that high total carbohydrate intake could increase the risk for diabetes in adulthood. That is type 2 diabetes, controlled without insulin injections. These data show, however, that the picture is more nuanced. According to the research definitions, high-quality carbohydrates come from whole grains. On the other hand, low-quality carbohydrates are found in potatoes, sugary foods and beverages and refined grains.
If people ate high quality carbs instead of fats and animal protein, they had a lower risk for diabetes. People who consumed refined grains in the place of saturated fat were more likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
Even experts can’t tell how diet affects the risk for diabetes by simply adding up fats, proteins and carbohydrates. You have to look at the foods providing those macronutrients. In general, less-processed foods appear to be healthier.
You can learn more about diabetes from our interview with Yale professor Kasia Lipska, MD. It is Show 1173: How Is Diabetes Diagnosed and Treated?
You may also be interested in a study undertaken by Richard Bernstein, MD. He recommends relying on non-starchy vegetables like asparagus, beet greens, bell peppers, broccoli, cabbage and spinach. He has found that even whole grains raise blood sugar unacceptably. Although Dr. Bernstein includes meat, fish, fowl and eggs in his recommendations, other research suggests plant-based protein is superior. A meta-analysis of nine studies found that people consuming mostly vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and whole grains had a 23 percent lower risk for diabetes (JAMA Internal Medicine, July 22, 2019).
Mediterranean Diet Against Diabetes:
Italian researchers have found that people sticking close to a traditional Mediterranean diet have better blood sugar control (Nutrients, Aug. 10, 2018). They choose whole grains, beans, lentils, fruits, vegetables, nuts, fish and olive oil over processed foods and go light on meat, sweets and dairy products. As a consequence, they consumed more fiber and less energy (calories), calcium and sodium. Such individuals also ended up with more polyphenols in their food choices.