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New research links a global increase in cases of type 2 diabetes with eating excess amounts of processed meats and refined carbs. Mark Tan/EyeEm/Getty Images
  • New research further suggests that unhealthy diet choices are associated with the rising rates of type 2 diabetes around the world.
  • Researchers found three dietary factors had the greatest impact on type 2 diabetes risk: eating too much processed meat and refined carbs, as well as an insufficient consumption of whole grains.
  • Health experts suggest that swapping processed meat for lean protein and replacing refined grains with whole grains can help reduce your risk.

According to a new study published in the journal Nature Medicine, eating large amounts of processed meats as well as refined rice and wheat may be linked to the rising rates of type 2 diabetes worldwide.

Not eating enough whole grains was also associated with the increase in cases.

This was based on a research model of dietary intake in 184 countries with data collected from 1990 to 2018.

Whole grains are high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals which help regulate blood sugar levels.

Refined rice and wheat are typically found in processed foods and contain a high glycemic index, which raises blood sugar levels. When foods with refined rice and wheat are consumed in excess, it can lead to insulin resistance.

“Refined carbs like white rice are digested quickly, causing spikes in blood sugar,” Aubrey Redd, MS, RDN, LDN, who was not involved in the research, told Healthline. “Since your HbA1c is a measure of your average blood sugar over the past 3 months, significant spikes can raise the overall average.”

Processed meat contains additives and sodium, which could contribute to poor metabolic health by driving inflammation.

Andrew Odegaard, associate professor of epidemiology & biostatistics, at the University of California, Irvine, Program in Public Health, explained that this latest study is part of a growing body of evidence that demonstrates habitual, high intake of refined grain foods can have acute impacts on physiologic and metabolic parameters, which can lead to a higher risk of type 2 diabetes.

“Whole grains largely have a beneficial effect relative to refined grains physiologically and metabolically. There is more circumstantial evidence relating the effects of habitual processed meat intake with type 2 diabetes,” Odegaard stated.

“I would best summarize this as there are plausible mechanisms, but still work to do, and probably best to invoke the precautionary principle if one is concerned with type 2 diabetes risk that could result from high and frequent consumption of processed meats,” he added.

Odegaard suggested that if you’re concerned about your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, try eating more of the following foods in place of refined grains:

“Simplistically, there is evidence for lower type 2 diabetes risk when eating intact whole grains instead of refined grains,” Odgaard said.

Additionally, Redd pointed out that swapping “refined grains with whole grains” will provide you with “added fiber, and fewer blood sugar spikes.”

Fiber slows down digestion and releases sugar slowly in the blood, unlike their refined counterparts,” Redd explained.

Additionally, Odegaard suggested that eating lean sources of protein (non-red meat) can also make a big difference.

These include:

According to a new research model, poor diet is linked to over 14.1 million cases of type 2 diabetes in 2018, based on data from 1990 to 2018.

Three dietary factors played the biggest role in type 2 diabetes risk: insufficient consumption of whole grains, eating too much refined rice and wheat, and excess intake of processed meat.

For healthy food alternatives, try lean sources of protein (non-red meat) such as fish, cheese, tofu, eggs and beans. Also, swap refined grains for whole grains.