According to a new study by Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, poor diet is a major factor in the development of type 2 diabetes. In 2018, it was linked to more than 14.1 million cases in 184 countries, which accounts for nearly 70 percent of all diagnoses in the world.
The study, published in the Nature Medicine journal on April 17, analyzes data from 1990 to 2018 and provides valuable insight into the factors responsible for the development of type 2 diabetes.
In total, 11 dietary factors were examined, three of which have a significant link to the rising incidence of type two diabetes. This includes excess consumption of refined wheat and rice, insufficient intake of whole grains, and overconsumption of processed meat.
Factors such as not eating enough nuts and non-starchy vegetables had a much smaller impact on the number of diagnoses.
According to Dariush Mozaffarian, the dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy who co-authored the study, the results suggest that poor carbohydrate quality is the main driver of diet-associated type 2 diabetes in the world.
Type 2 diabetes is a chronic medical condition in which the body becomes resistant to insulin, a hormone that normally controls the amount of sugar in the blood. Out of the 184 countries that were looked at in the study, all of them saw an uptick in cases between 1990 and 2018.
Regionally, Central Asia, Eastern and Central Europe, had the highest number of diet-associated type 2 diabetes cases, which isn’t surprising as their diets tend to be rich in potatoes, processed meat, and red meat. Incidence was also high in the Caribbean and Latin America, where individuals consume high amounts of processed meat, sugary drinks, and minimal amounts of whole grains.
Left unchecked, the number of cases will only continue to rise, which will greatly impact economic productivity, population health, and healthcare system capacity worldwide, according to first author Meghan O’Hearn, who currently works at the non-profit Food Systems for the Future.