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Diabetes risk lower with high intake of fruit and veg

Wholegrain foods associated with lower risk of chronic disease and premature mortality

Louise Prime

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

People with a diet rich in fruit and vegetables are significantly less likely than others to develop type 2 diabetes, research* has shown. Authors of the study, funded by the US National Institutes of Health and published in PLOS Medicine, said their results back up current recommendations to shift to diets rich in healthy plant foods, with lower intake of less healthy plant and animal foods. A separate study**, published today in the BMJ, showed that a diet rich in wholegrains was associated with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease, and total cancer; and with lower mortality from all causes.

US researchers wanted to find out in more detail about the food types and combinations associated with the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. They analysed data on 69,949 women from the Nurses’ Health Study (1984–2012), 90,239 women from the Nurses’ Health Study 2 (1991–2011), and 40,539 men from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (1986–2010), who had been free of chronic diseases at baseline. Participants had provided dietary data every 2-4 years using a semi-quantitative food frequency questionnaire.

After adjusting for body mass index, the researchers found that a diet that emphasised plant foods and was low in animal foods was associated with a reduction of about 20% in the risk of incident type 2 diabetes; and a diet with higher levels of ‘healthy’ plant-derived foods (such as fruit and vegetables) reduced diabetes risk by 34%. However, diabetes risk was increased in people with higher intakes of ‘less healthy’ plant-derived foods (such as refined grains and fruit juices).
The study authors said that although their study was based on observational data, and hence carried a risk of bias, it still provided information on the healthy plant-based dietary components and combinations that should be recommended to combat the increasing population-level threat of type 2 diabetes.

They concluded: “Our study suggests that plant-based diets, especially when rich in high-quality plant foods, are associated with substantially lower risk of developing T2D. This supports current recommendations to shift to diets rich in healthy plant foods, with lower intake of less healthy plant and animal foods.”

In the second study, UK researchers reported in the BMJ that a high intake of whole grains was associated with reduced risk of coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease, total cancer, and all-cause mortality, as well as mortality from respiratory disease, infectious disease, diabetes, and all non-cardiovascular, non-cancer causes. They found that intakes of specific types of whole grains – including whole grain bread, whole grain breakfast cereals, and added bran, as well as total bread and total breakfast cereals – were associated with reduced risks of cardiovascular disease and/or all-cause mortality.

They concluded: “The results strongly support dietary recommendations to increase intake of whole grain foods in the general population to reduce risk of chronic diseases and premature mortality.”


* Satija A, Bhupathiraju SN, Rimm EB et al. Plant-based dietary patterns and incidence of type 2 diabetes in US men and women: results from three prospective cohort studies. PLoS Med 2016 13(6): e1002039.
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1002039.

** Dagfinn A, Keum N, Giovannucci E et al. Whole grain consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and all cause and cause specific mortality: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. BMJ 2016; 353: i2716. doi: 10.1136

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