Three dietary factors may be the ‘drivers’ of diabetes, say experts

Diabetes type 2: Dr Zoe Williams discusses high blood sugar risks

The research, by Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, conducted an investigation into dietary choices and type 2 diabetes. Taking into account 184 countries, the team estimated that poor diet contributed to over 14.1 million cases of type 2 diabetes in 2018. To get to this figure, the researchers pooled data from 1990 to 2018, which considered 11 dietary factors.

Three dietary factors seemingly contributed to the rising incidence of type 2 diabetes.

These were:

  1. Insufficient intake of whole grains
  2. Excess of refined rice and wheat
  3. Overconsumption of processed meat.

Factors, such as drinking too much fruit juice, not eating enough non-starchy vegetables, nuts, or seeds, were shown to have less of an impact on the onset of diabetes.

Professor Dariush Mozaffarian said: “Our study suggests poor carbohydrate quality is a leading driver of diet-attributable type 2 diabetes globally.

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“These new findings reveal critical areas for national and global focus to improve nutrition and reduce devastating burdens of diabetes.”

Of the 184 countries included in the research, all experienced an increase in type 2 diabetes cases from 1990 to 2018.

Type 2 diabetes

During the earliest stages of the disease, symptoms can appear ever so subtly that it can be easy to miss the warning signs.

The NHS listed the “main symptoms” of type 2 diabetes to be aware of, which are:

  • Urinating more often than usual, particularly at night
  • Feeling very thirsty
  • Feeling very tired
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Itchiness around the genital area, or regular bouts of thrush (a yeast infection)
  • Cuts or wounds that heal slowly
  • Blurred vision – caused by the lens of the eye becoming dry.

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Often, type 2 diabetes is diagnosed following a routine health check-up.

A blood test can reveal if there is too much sugar in the blood, which is a prerequisite for the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.

In England, adults between the ages of 40 to 74 are eligible for a free NHS Health Check.

Not only can the health check-up test for diabetes, the health screening also picks up the early signs of a stroke, kidney and heart disease, as well as dementia.

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The NHS Health Check can take place every five years but, if you have any concerns, it’s strongly recommended to speak to your doctor.

What is type 2 diabetes?

The health body explains: “Type 2 diabetes occurs when the pancreas, a large gland behind the stomach, can’t produce enough insulin to control your blood glucose level.

“Or when the cells in your body don’t respond properly to the insulin that is produced.”

There are four “risk factors” for developing the condition, which are:

  • Age
  • Genetics
  • Weight
  • Ethnicity.

The health body elaborates, stating that people are more at risk of the blood sugar condition once they are 40.

South Asian people, however, are said to have a higher risk of type 2 diabetes from the age of 25.

If you have a close relative, such as a parent or sibling, who has the condition, then you’re more likely to develop the condition too.

The study was published on April 17, 2023, in the journal Nature Medicine.

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