Nutritious diet may protect against type 2 diabetes, regardless of genetics

A healthy diet that adheres to nutrition recommendations is associated with better blood glucose levels and a lower risk of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes, a new study from the University of Eastern Finland shows. This association was observed also in individuals with a high genetic predisposition to type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is a strongly genetic disease that can be prevented and delayed with a healthy lifestyle, such as diet and exercise.

However, 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.”

Ulla Tolonen, Doctoral Researcher, University of Eastern Finland

The cross-sectional study examined food consumption and blood glucose levels in more than 1,500 middle-aged and elderly men participating in the broader Metabolic Syndrome in Men Study, METSIM. Food consumption was measured using a food frequency questionnaire, and blood glucose levels were measured using a two-hour glucose tolerance test. In addition, study participants’ genetic risk of type 2 diabetes was scored based on 76 genetic variants associated with type 2 diabetes risk.

The researchers identified two dietary patterns based on food consumption. A dietary pattern termed as “healthy” included, among other things, 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. This diet was associated with, e.g., lower blood glucose levels and a lower risk of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.

The study also explored the effect of the genetic risk of type 2 diabetes on the associations with diet and glucose metabolism. The associations of a healthy diet with better glucose metabolism seemed to hold true for individuals with both a low and a high genetic risk of diabetes.

"Our findings suggest that a healthy diet seems to benefit everyone, regardless of their genetic risk," Tolonen concludes.

The findings were published in European Journal of Nutrition.


University of Eastern Finland

Journal reference:

Tolonen, U., et al. (2024). Healthy dietary pattern is associated with lower glycemia independently of the genetic risk of type 2 diabetes: a cross-sectional study in Finnish men. European Journal of Nutrition.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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