Diet: A Risk Factor for Type 2 Diabetes
Obesity is the foremost risk factor for diabetes; studies show that the typical Western diet of fast, processed, refined junk foods can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes by more than 50%. In other words, the typical American diet, combined with the typical American couch potato lifestyle, are making us fat, sitting ducks, waiting for diabetes to strike.
The Western Diet
A recent study at Harvard found that its subjects who followed a Western diet increased their risk of diabetes by at least 59%. This diet includes these foods:
- red meat
- processed red meat
- refined grains
- high fat dairy
- french fries
The risk was compounded by physical inactivity and obesity.
Specific nutritional culprits were identified in another study:
- A significant increase in sugar
- An excessive fat and cooked protein intake without an increasing vitamin B6 and magnesium intake
- Decreased intake of "glucose tolerance factor," an insulin cofactor that is removed during processing of foods.
In addition to causing obesity, which is strongly linked to diabetes, a poor diet can lead to other conditions that are causative diabetes factors:
- Insulin resistance syndrome
- Metabolic syndrome
One study found that people who drink more than one soft drink per day, whether regular or artificially sweetened, have a 50-60% higher risk of developing metabolic syndrome, a precursor to diabetes and heart disease. Metabolic syndrome is characterized by excessive abdominal fat, elevated blood pressure, high triglycerides, low levels of HDL "good" cholesterol, and increased fasting glucose levels. Interestingly, this risk stayed the same regardless of what the rest of the diet looked like.
Eat Well to Be Well
What does this mean for you? The earlier in life you start exercising and eating a healthy diet, the better. In many cases, diabetes is largely preventable by diet. A diet consisting of:
- fruits and vegetables
- whole grains
- fish and poultry
has been found to decrease the risk of diabetes. Combined with exercise, this diet can prevent the obesity and other conditions that play such a large role in the onset of diabetes. However, it's never too late to start a healthy lifestyle-even if you already have diabetes, if may go a long way toward helping you manage it.