According to a recent study from researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital and published in the Diabetes Care journal, a healthy diet is associated with a lower risk for type 2 diabetes among all racial and ethnic groups of women, with the greatest benefit for African American, Hispanic and Asian women.
The research was conducted by Jinnie Rhee, the study’s leading author, who is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University School of Medicine; the researcher said in a press release: “This study suggests that a healthy overall diet can play a vital role in preventing type 2 diabetes, particularly among minority women who have elevated risks of the disease. As the incidence of type 2 diabetes continues to increase at an alarming rate worldwide, these findings can have global importance for what may be the largest public health threat of this century.”
Estimates suggest that about 29.1 million of Americans suffer with diabetes, and about 47 million people in the world have the disease. According to the World Health Organization, by 2030 diabetes will the 7th leading cause of death. The disease is closely related to excess body weight and lack of physical activity. It is more common in older people and in Latinos, African Americans, Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders and Native Americans.
Scientists analyzed diet data of 156,030 non-Hispanic white women, 2,053 Hispanic, 2,026 Asian and 2,307African American women. Some factors in the study were adjusted such as age, smoking, physical activity, diabetes’ family history, alcohol consumption, oral contraceptive use and menopausal hormone, postmenopausal status, body mass index and total calorie intake. Women were followed up on for 28 years and responded to diet questionnaires every four years.
“The researchers created a dietary diabetes risk reduction score that included components associated with type 2 diabetes risk. A higher score indicated a healthier overall diet—one with lower intake of saturated and trans fats, sugar-sweetened beverages, and red and processed meats; lower glycemic index foods; and higher intakes of cereal fiber, polyunsaturated fats, coffee, and nuts,” as explained in the press release.
Results revealed a 48% lower risk of diabetes in white, 42% in Asian, 55% in Hispanic, and 32% in African American women. In addition, about 5.3 diabetes cases in every 1,000 could be prevented in white women each year through a healthier diet; 8.0 cases of all the minority groups combined could be prevented per 1000 cases annually as well.
Walter Willett concluded, “This finding confirms that we are all in the same boat when it comes to preventing type 2 diabetes by diet. Our next challenge is to put this knowledge into practice so everyone can benefit.”