A Better Diet Might Prevent Diabetes

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Type 2 diabetes risk decreased with improved diet alone

June 15, 2014 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

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(dailyRx News) Some risk factors for type 2 diabetes, such as a family history of the condition, age and race, may be out of a person's control. But people do have control over other risk factors, including diet.

A recent study found that people who improved their diet had a lower risk of type 2 diabetes than people who made no changes to their diet.

The researchers discovered that a better diet reduced the risk of diabetes regardless of other diabetes risk factors.

"Eat a healthy diet to lower your diabetes risk."

The lead author of this study was Sylvia Ley, PhD, from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts.

The current study used data on 148,848 people who participated in the Nurses Health Study from 1986 to 2006, the Nurses Health Study II from 1991 to 2001, and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study from 1986 to 2010.

None of the participants had diabetes at the beginning of each study.

The researchers measured changes in the participants’ dietary quality over the course of four years using the 110-point Alternate Healthy Eating Index 2010.

Dietary index scores were comprised of 10 different areas of a healthy diet, with higher scores indicating a healthier diet.

The findings showed that 9,134 participants developed type 2 diabetes over the course of 2,312,140 person-years (the number of participants multiplied by number of years with type 2 diabetes).

The participants who decreased their diet quality scores by more than 10 percent over four years increased their risk of diabetes by 27 percent.

The researchers determined that the participants who increased their dietary quality scores by 10 or more percent over four years decreased their risk of diabetes by 18 percent.

Dietary quality scores were increased when participants added more grains, fruits and vegetables to their diet, and reduced their intake of sugary drinks and saturated fats.

The findings also revealed that an improved diet independently reduced participants’ risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Lastly, Dr. Ley and team discovered that it did not matter if a participant had a good or bad diet starting out—an improvement benefited all the participants.

"We found that diet was indeed associated with diabetes independent of weight loss and increased physical activity," concluded Dr. Ley. "If you improve other lifestyle factors you reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes even more, but improving diet quality alone has significant benefits. This is important because it is often difficult for people to maintain a calorie-restricted diet for a long time. We want them to know if they can improve the overall quality of what they eat—consume less red meat and sugar-sweetened beverages, and more fruits, vegetables and whole grains—they are going to improve their health and reduce their risk for diabetes."

This study was presented on June 14 at the American Diabetes Association’s 74th Scientific Sessions.

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases provided funding.

Review Date: 
June 14, 2014
Last Updated:
June 16, 2014