Improving Diet Quality Reduces Risk for Type 2 Diabetes

San Francisco, California
June 14, 2014

Study finds healthier eating pattern provides benefit independent of other lifestyle changes

Improving the overall quality of one’s diet helps to prevent type 2 diabetes, independent of other lifestyle changes, according to a study presented at the American Diabetes Association’s 74th Scientific Sessions®.

The study, by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, found that those who improved their diet quality index scores by 10 percent over four years – by eating more whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and less sweetened beverages and saturated fats, for example – reduced their risk for type 2 diabetes by about 20 percent, compared to those who made no changes to their diets. Dietary quality was measured using the 110-point Alternate Healthy Eating Index 2010.

The study also examined whether improved diet was a marker of other lifestyle changes, such as weight loss or increased physical activity, or if it could independently reduce a person’s risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

“We found that diet was indeed associated with diabetes independent of weight loss and increased physical activity,” said lead researcher Sylvia Ley, PhD, a post-doctoral fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health. “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.”

The study also showed that it didn’t matter how good or poor a person’s diet was when they started out, she said. “Regardless of where participants started, improving diet quality was beneficial for all.”

Funding for this research was provided by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, under grant number DK058845.

About the American Diabetes Association

More than 30 million Americans have diabetes, and every 21 seconds another person is diagnosed with diabetes. The American Diabetes Association (Association) is the global authority on diabetes and since 1940 has been committed to its mission to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes. To tackle this global public health crisis, the Association drives discovery in research to treat, manage and prevent all types of diabetes, as well as to search for cures; raises voice to the urgency of the diabetes epidemic; and provides support and advocacy for people living with diabetes, those at risk of developing diabetes and the health care professionals who serve them. For more information, please call the American Diabetes Association at 1-800-DIABETESS (1-800-342-2383) or visit diabetes.org. Information from both of these sources is available in English and Spanish. Find us on Facebook (American Diabetes Association), Twitter (@AmDiabetesAssn) and Instagram (@AmDiabetesAssn)