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Improving Diet Lowers Type 2 Diabetes Risk

Update Date: Jun 14, 2014 11:47 AM EDT

A recent study found that more than 29 million Americans have type 1 or type 2 diabetes. The alarming rate stresses the importance of taking preventive measures for this chronic condition. In a new study, researchers examined the effects of improving all aspects of one's diet on type 2 diabetes risk and found that when people make these changes, their risk falls greatly.

"We found that diet was indeed associated with diabetes independent of weight loss and increased physical activity," said lead researcher Sylvia Ley, PhD, a post-doctoral fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health.

The researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health analyzed the beneficial effects of improving one's diet based on the diet quality index scores, which were calculated by using the 110-point Alternate Health Eating Index 2010. The participants had increased their scores by 10 percent over the time span of four years by adding whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and taking away sweetened beverages and saturated fats. The researchers calculated that these diet changes led to a nearly 20 percent lower risk of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

"If you improve other lifestyle factors you reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes even more, but improving diet quality alone has significant benefits. This is important because it is often difficult for people to maintain a calorie-restricted diet for a long time. We want them to know if they can improve the overall quality of what they eat - consume less red meat and sugar-sweetened beverages, and more fruits, vegetables and whole grains - they are going to improve their health and reduce their risk for diabetes," Ley stated.

The researchers added that it is not too late to change one's diet. If people have eaten poorly for the majority of their life, improving their diets will yield healthful results.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. The findings were presented at the American Diabetes Association's 74th Scientific Sessions.

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