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A Healthy Diet Could Shield Against Type 2 Diabetes Regardless of Genetic Risk

Updated: Jun 25

A healthy diet that adheres to nutrition recommendations is associated with better blood glucose levels and a lower risk of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes, a new study from the University of Eastern Finland shows. This association was observed also in individuals with a high genetic predisposition to type 2 diabetes.


Type 2 diabetes is a strongly genetic disease that can be prevented and delayed with a healthy lifestyle, such as diet and exercise.


However, we haven’t really known whether a healthy diet is equally beneficial to all, i.e., to those with a low genetic risk and to those with a high genetic risk.”


Ulla Tolonen, Doctoral Researcher, University of Eastern Finland

The cross-sectional study examined food consumption and blood glucose levels in more than 1,500 middle-aged and elderly men participating in the broader Metabolic Syndrome in Men Study, METSIM. Food consumption was measured using a food frequency questionnaire, and blood glucose levels were measured using a two-hour glucose tolerance test. In addition, study participants’ genetic risk of type 2 diabetes was scored based on 76 genetic variants associated with type 2 diabetes risk.


The researchers identified two dietary patterns based on food consumption. A dietary pattern termed as “healthy” included, among other things, vegetables, berries, fruits, vegetable oils, fish, poultry, potatoes, unsweetened and low-fat yogurt, low-fat cheese and whole grain products, such as porridge, pasta and rice. This diet was associated with, e.g., lower blood glucose levels and a lower risk of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.

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 The study also explored the effect of the genetic risk of type 2 diabetes on the associations with diet and glucose metabolism. The associations of a healthy diet with better glucose metabolism seemed to hold true for individuals with both a low and a high genetic risk of diabetes.


"Our findings suggest that a healthy diet seems to benefit everyone, regardless of their genetic risk," Tolonen concludes.


The study from the University of Eastern Finland provides compelling evidence that adhering to a healthy diet is beneficial for managing blood glucose levels and reducing the risk of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes, even among individuals with a high genetic predisposition to the disease. Here are the key points highlighted by the research:


1.    Benefit of a Healthy Diet: The study identified a "healthy" dietary pattern that includes vegetables, berries, fruits, vegetable oils, fish, poultry, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products. This diet was associated with lower blood glucose levels and a reduced risk of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.


2.    Genetic Influence: Type 2 diabetes has a strong genetic component, but the study found that the benefits of a healthy diet on glucose metabolism are consistent across individuals with both low and high genetic risks of diabetes. This suggests that diet can play a crucial role in preventing or delaying the onset of diabetes, regardless of genetic predisposition.


3.    Study Design: The research utilized a cross-sectional design within the broader METSIM study, involving over 1,500 middle-aged and elderly men. Food consumption was assessed using a food frequency questionnaire, and blood glucose levels were measured through a two-hour glucose tolerance test. Genetic risk scores for type 2 diabetes were calculated based on 76 genetic variants associated with the disease.


4.    Implications: These findings underscore the importance of dietary interventions in public health strategies aimed at preventing type 2 diabetes. They suggest that promoting a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can significantly mitigate the risk of developing diabetes, irrespective of genetic factors.

In summary, the study contributes valuable insights into how diet influences glucose metabolism and diabetes risk, highlighting that a healthy diet is universally beneficial and should be encouraged as a cornerstone of preventive health measures.




 

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