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Study: These are the foods to eat to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes

Published Jun 30th, 2024 9:02AM EDT
Various types of food on a table.
Image: Yeongsik Im/Adobe

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I often joke that I’m on my way to type 2 diabetes because of genetics. My love for ice cream will also play a role in that. It’s why I’ve returned to running frequently and taking it very seriously. It’s not just marathon training that I adhere to; I’m also trying to eat healthier while exercising more.

A healthy diet might be a key element in reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes. It’s not just something that makes common sense. A new study shows that a healthy diet will reduce the risk of developing the condition, even in people genetically predisposed to it.

Researchers from the University of Eastern Finland looked at the diet habits of more than 1,500 middle-aged and elderly men as part of a broader Metabolic Syndrome in Men Study (METSIM) study. They analyzed genetic markers associated with type 2 diabetes for the participants and found that a healthy diet can have a huge impact on the risk of diabetes regardless of genetic risk.

The researchers identified what a healthy diet should contain to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. According to them, you should eat the following foods to improve your chances of avoiding the illness: “vegetables, berries, fruits, vegetable oils, fish, poultry, potatoes, unsweetened and low-fat yogurt, low-fat cheese and whole grain products, such as porridge, pasta, and rice.”

Here are more detailed examples from the study of the diet the researchers consider as healthy: 

High in fresh salad, fresh vegetables; fresh or frozen berries; boiled side vegetables; fruits; oil-based salad dressing or oil with vegetables; fish and fish dishes; chicken, turkey and chicken dishes; unsweetened or artificially sweetened yoghurt (including dairy-, oat-, soy- and rice-based products), quark, Nordic sour milk, or skyr (≤ 1% fat); vegetable dishes; whole grain porridges; whole grain pasta or rice; low-fat cheeses (fat ≤ 17%); boiled or mashed potatoes.

The unhealthy diet included the following types of food:

High in fried potatoes or French fries; sausage dishes, sausages; hamburgers; pizza; refined pasta or rice; other sweet pastries; sausage cutleries; other candy; savory pies and pastries; savory snacks; ice cream or puddings; French roll, baguette, or other white bread; sweet cookies, biscuits; meat dishes; ready-meals; other cheeses; sweetened yogurt (including dairy-, oat-, soy- and rice-based products), quark, or Nordic sour milk (> 1% fat); sour cream based salad dressing

The researchers associated a healthy diet with lower blood glucose levels. Therefore, the risk of developing prediabetes and type 2 diabetes was lower.

The study also examined the effects of a healthy diet on people genetically predisposed to developing type 2 diabetes. The conclusions seem to hold for low and high genetic risk participants. That is, a healthy diet can improve glucose metabolism and reduce the risk of illness.

“We haven’t really known whether a healthy diet is equally beneficial to all, i.e., to those with a low genetic risk and to those with a high genetic risk,” doctoral researcher Ulla Tolonen said in a statement. “Our findings suggest that a healthy diet seems to benefit everyone, regardless of their genetic risk.”

The researchers found that a healthy diet is associated with lower fasting plasma glucose and lower 2-hour plasma glucose. A healthy diet is also better for insulin sensitivity and insulin secretion metrics. Put differently, a healthy diet can reduce the risk of hyperglycemia, which occurs in prediabetes and diabetes. The blood sugar level rises above those considered to be within normal ranges.

The researchers gave participants questionnaires to determine the foods that can make a healthy diet. They also took blood glucose readings with a two-hour glucose tolerance test. Finally, they analyzed the participants’ genetic risk of type 2 diabetes using 76 genetic markers.

Separately, I’ll also point your attention to a different food-related study that says eating more cheese might improve your mental well-being and help you age healthier.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.