3 dietary factors that lead to millions of T2D cases

An estimated 462 million people, or 6.3 percent of the world’s population, are affected by type 2 diabetes (T2D), a disease in which the body’s cells become resistant to insulin. Diabetes alone is responsible for more than 1 million deaths per year, making it the ninth leading cause of mortality worldwide.

But for decades, experts, including doctors and nutritionists, have maintained that not only could T2D be avoided with the right intervention — but that the disease could be reversed. There aren’t many conditions or diseases that present that opportunity — or where food is the medicine.

The number of people suffering from T2D is rising globally — and at a much faster rate in developed regions like Western Europe and the United States. Experts believe this is mainly because of the Western diet

And research appears to back up this hypothesis — including which specific foods are the biggest troublemakers…

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Poor diet linked with the majority of diabetes cases

Using data from 1990 and 2018, investigators at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University developed a research model based on dietary intake in 184 countries.

Their analysis estimates that a staggering 7 out of 10 cases of T2D worldwide in 2018 were linked to poor food choices. That translates to more than 14.1 million global cases!

Out of the 11 dietary factors considered in the analysis, three foods significantly contributed to rising T2D incidence. They were…

  • Insufficient intake of whole grains;
  • Overconsumption of refined rice and wheat;
  • And excess intake of processed meat.

They also noted factors like drinking too much fruit juice and not eating enough non-starchy vegetables, nuts or seeds.

Previous studies had estimated that 40 percent of cases of T2D were linked to a poor diet. The Tufts researchers felt the reason their number was as high as 70 percent was due to the inclusion of refined grains.

You can’t just lump grains into one group. Whole grains are full of benefits that promote good metabolic health. But refined grains are a totally different monster…

Refined grains are wheat grain products or flours that have had the bran and germ removed, rendering them low in fiber. Refined grains are used in many processed foods, cereals and ready-to-eat baked goods and bread. And they have the opposite effect of whole grains, especially concerning heart problems, stroke risk and blood sugar.

“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,” says senior author Dariush Mozaffarian, a nutrition professor and dean for policy at the Friedman School.

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The best diets for combating type 2 diabetes

If you’re at elevated risk for blood sugar problems, you don’t want to join these rising ranks of people touched by full-blown T2D. Consider this a wake call and heed the alert about which foods have the biggest negative impact—and which ones can support normal blood sugar levels.

Several eating plans can help reduce your T2D risk. In fact, some have reversed type 2 diabetes…

In one study, an eight-week restricted-calorie diet was able to reverse type 2 diabetes. Of course, that study involved ingesting only 600 calories a day, so it may not be feasible for people outside of a clinical environment to follow such a strict limit.

Instead, you might want to try a 5:2 eating pattern, which involves eating 600 calories two days in a row, then eating a normal amount of calories for the rest of the week. For most people, that’s between 1,800 and 2,400 calories. A study of the 5:2 eating plan found it reduced blood sugar and weight.

Other diets that can help keep blood sugar levels balanced include the paleo diet, the DASH diet and the Mediterranean diet. All these diets focus on lowering consumption of refined grains, processed meat and added sugars, and the latter two also include plenty of whole grains and fiber from plant sources. Fiber helps to control blood sugar, as well as blood pressure and heart disease risk

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Study Links Poor Diet to 14 Million Cases of Type 2 Diabetes Globally — TuftsNow

Incident type 2 diabetes attributable to suboptimal diet in 184 countries — Nature Medicine

Epidemiology of Type 2 Diabetes – Global Burden of Disease and Forecasted Trends — Journal of Epidemiology and Global Health

Carolyn Gretton

By Carolyn Gretton

Carolyn Gretton is a freelance writer based in New Haven, CT who specializes in all aspects of health and wellness and is passionate about discovering the latest health breakthroughs and sharing them with others. She has worked with a wide range of companies in the alternative health space and has written for online and print publications like Dow Jones Newswires and the Philadelphia Inquirer.