A large study of men's health habits has found that those who eat a typical "western" diet are at significantly higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. A western diet was defined as one high in red and processed meats, high-fat dairy products, refined grains, French fries and sweets. The increased risk was independent of their weight, level of physical activity, age or family history.
On the other hand, eating a "prudent" diet that includes more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish and poultry reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The study also found that eating a balanced diet comprised of a variety of nutritious foods has a greater influence on the development of diabetes than the individual foods or ingredients consumed.
The risk of diabetes was nearly doubled among those who ate a western diet combined with low physical activity or obesity. The study authors note that avoiding weight gain and eating a prudent diet may substantially reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, which is increasing rapidly in the US.
The NIH research evaluated the eating habits of 42,504 male health professionals, 40 to 75 years old, without diagnosed diabetes, heart disease or cancer at the beginning of the study period, which spanned 12 years.
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Source: van Dam RM, Rimm EB, Willett WC et al. Dietary patterns and risk for type 2 diabetes mellitus in U.S. men. Annals of Internal Medicine, Feb. 5, 2002;136(3):201-209.