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20-11-2011 | Diabetes | Article

Western diet adversely impacts on Type 2 diabetes risk


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MedWire News: Girls who eat a Western diet in adolescence face an increased risk for developing Type 2 diabetes in middle-age, show study findings.

The results, published in the journal Diabetes Care, suggest that a Western diet during adolescence - characterized by high intake of sugar, processed meat, and refined grains and low intake of vegetables, fruit, and fish - may have an adverse impact on risk for diabetes that is only partly explained by weight gain.

"Data on adolescent diet in relation to future risk for Type 2 diabetes are sparse, and, to our knowledge, no study has so far investigated whether particular dietary patterns at early stages in the life-course can affect risk for Type 2 diabetes," say Vasanti Malik (Harvard School of Public Health, Massachusetts, USA) and colleagues.

In this study, the team examined the incidence of diabetes among 37,038 participants from the Nurse's Health Study II, who were aged 24-44 at baseline in 1989.

High school diet was evaluated using the High School Food-Frequency Questionnaire (HS-FFQ).

Additionally, adult dietary patterns were assessed in 1991, 1995, 1999, and 2003 and information on lifestyle, diet, and medical history was obtained every 2 years until 2005.

The researchers analyzed the questionnaires for nutrient content and identified two major dietary patterns - namely, "Western" and "prudent" patterns.

A Western dietary pattern was characterized by a high consumption of desserts, snacks, processed meats, red meat, French fries, and refined grains and a low consumption of vegetables, fruit, and fish. The prudent pattern, by contrast, was characterized by a high consumption of vegetables, fruit, legumes, fish, and better quality grains and a low consumption of snacks and soda.

Participants were then assigned a score based on how closely they conformed to each pattern and the scores were divided into quintiles.

During follow-up there were 550 new cases of diabetes mellitus, the researchers report.

After adjustment for high school and adult risk factors, participants in the highest quintile for a Western dietary pattern during high school had a 29% greater risk for diabetes than participants in the lowest quintile.

However, this association became nonsignificant after adjustment for weight change after the age of 18 years.

Furthermore, individuals in the highest quintile for Western dietary pattern during both adulthood and high school had an 82% higher risk for Type 2 diabetes relative to those in the lowest quintile.

This association was partly mediated by weight gain, with the excess risk falling to just 15% after adjustment for body mass index.

The prudent pattern was not associated with risk for Type 2 diabetes.

"For optimal prevention of Type 2 diabetes, a healthy diet should be adopted in early life and maintained throughout the life course," conclude the authors.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Sally Robertson

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