Lower Intake of Soft Drinks, Processed Meat and White Bread Linked to Lower Diabetes Risk

A diet that is low in sugar-sweetened beverages, processed meat and white bread is associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. This is the result of a large longitudinal observational study that examined the eating habits of people from seven European countries. The study comprised data of 21,616 women and men, 9,682 of whom developed type 2 diabetes during the observation period. The research team led by the DZD scientists Janine Kröger and Matthias Schulze of the German Institute of Human Nutrition (DIfE) has now published the study findings in the journal "Diabetologia".

In their study, the researchers examined five predefined dietary patterns in relation to diabetes risk. They found that diets characterized by low intake of sugary soft drinks, processed meat and white bread were particularly associated with a reduced diabetes risk.
So far, only few studies have investigated the relationships between these dietary patterns* and the incidence of type 2 diabetes. To learn more about these relationships in European population groups, the researchers examined the dietary behavior of study participants from France, Spain, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark and Germany who took part in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) InterAct Study **. The special feature of this study is that it is prospective. In the analysis of such a study it is important that at baseline the participants do not (yet) have the disease under investigation. The risk factors for a specific disease can thus be determined before it becomes manifest, whereby a distortion of the data by the disease can be prevented to the greatest extent – a decisive advantage over retrospective studies.
The study participants were recruited throughout Europe between 1991 and 2000. The reviewers interviewed the participants using questionnaires and asked them how often they had consumed specific foods in the past 12 months. In the average 12-year observation period following the interview, 12,403 participants developed type 2 diabetes, whereby 2,721 were excluded from the data analysis because their information about their dietary habits and lifestyle was not complete.
“As our data analysis shows, people who consume a lot of processed meat, sugary soft drinks and white bread have a higher diabetes risk than people who eat or drink less of these foods. This relationship can only be partly explained by body weight,” said Janine Kröger, lead author of the study. “Our results are consistent with other data from observational studies and with results from clinical trials.
For example, these studies showed that a high intake of cereal fiber favorably influences the insulin sensitivity of the body cells. In Germany as well as in other countries it has been clearly observed that people who regularly eat whole grain bread instead of white bread develop diabetes later or less often,” said Matthias Schulze, head of the Department of Molecular Epidemiology at the DIfE.

Background information:
Journal article
Kröger, J. et al., 2013; DOI: 10.1007/s00125-013-3092-9.
*Dietary patterns: It is important in risk analyses to consider the diet in its entire context and not individual food components, since people tend not to have diets composed of single foods but instead choose specific dietary patterns.

The**EPIC-InterAct Study is a subproject of the EPIC Study that investigates the relationships between diet, cancer and other chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes. Twenty-three administrative centers in ten European countries with a total of 519,000 adult participants take part in the study. The Potsdam EPIC Study with more than 27,000 participants is part of the EPIC Study.