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Overall diet quality is important for lower risk of type 2 diabetes

A study by scientists at the National University of Singapore determined the importance of overall diet quality on the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Several modified diets have been tried in the Western world, which has proved to be effective in reducing the risks of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.  These include the Mediterranean diet and its international adaptation, the alternate Mediterranean diet (aMED), The Alternate Healthy Eating Index (AHEI), and its updated version, Alternate Healthy Eating Index 2010 (AHEI-2010) and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, plant-based diet index (PDI) and healthful plant foods (healthful plant-based diet index (hPDI).

There is a wide diversity in the dietary patterns amongst the Western and Asian population. The diets mentioned above have proved to be effective only for Western people. But with diabetes rising in alarming proportions in the Asian community, scientists from the National University of Singapore undertook a study to ascertain whether these diets can also mitigate the risk of type 2 diabetes in Asians. This study was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology in August 2018.

The study involved 45,411 participants, ages between 45-74 years, who did not have diabetes, cancer, or cardiovascular disease. The researchers conducted interviews to record their dietary habits, location, height, weight, tobacco use, physical exercise, medical history and female menstrual and reproductive history. The nutrient intake of the participants was compared with the abovementioned five dietary patterns. After a follow-up period was 11 years, 5, 207 persons developed type 2 diabetes.

Reduced risks of type 2 diabetes with healthy diets

All of the studied diets were associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. Specifically, individuals who had higher intakes of coffee and whole grains with a lower intake of sweet beverages and red meat had reduced risks.

The AMED, AHEI-2010 and DASH diets contain plant products like vegetables, fruit, nuts and legumes, with less red and processed meat. AHEI-2010 and DASH diets had more sodium and limited sugary beverages. These dietary patterns prevented the development of type 2diabetes. However, this decrease in risks of type 2 diabetes was weak in smokers.

This study had several strengths. It had a significant number of participants, detailed food questionnaire, and prospective study design were few of them. However, the study was restricted to the population of East Asia; including a more diverse population would have been more beneficial.

The risks of type2 diabetes can be lowered by an active lifestyle, regular physical activity, and healthy dietary habits. As seen in the Western population, the above discussed dietary patterns lowered the risk of type 2 diabetes in Asians as well.

Study author Professor Rob van Dam commented in a recent press release: “Our results are consistent with studies in other populations that a high-quality diet defined by an abundance of minimally processed plant foods such as whole grains, vegetables, fruit, nuts and legumes, but restricted intake of red and processed meat, and sweetened beverages were significantly associated with lower risk of diabetes.”

Written by Dr. Radhika Baitari, MS


  1. Quality of overall diet is key to lowering type 2 diabetes risk [Internet]. EurekAlert!. 2019 [cited 25 February 2019]. Available from:
  2. Chen G, Koh W, Neelakantan N, Yuan J, Qin L, van Dam R. Diet Quality Indices and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. 2018.


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