A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine suggests that a diet high in ultra-processed foods (UPF) may increase the risk for type 2 diabetes.

In this population-based prospective cohort study, the researchers included 104,707 participants aged 18 or older from the French NutriNet-Santé cohort (2009–2019). They collected dietary intake data using repeated 24-hour dietary records designed to register participants’ usual consumption for more than 3,500 different food items. These were categorized according to their degree of processing by the NOVA classification system.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (pdf), examples of what NOVA categorizes ultra-processed products include, “carbonated soft drinks; sweet, fatty, or salty packaged snacks; candies (confectionery); mass produced packaged breads and buns, cookies (biscuits), pastries, cakes, and cake mixes; margarine and other spreads; sweetened breakfast cereals and fruit yogurt and energy drinks; pre-prepared meat, cheese, pasta and pizza dishes; poultry and fish nuggets and sticks; sausages, burgers, hot dogs, and other reconstituted meat products; powdered and packaged instant soups, noodles, and desserts; baby formula; and many other types of product.”

There were 821 cases of type 2 diabetes over an average six years of follow-up. After controlling for age, sex, family history of diabetes, and many dietary and behavioral factors, the researchers found that for each absolute increase of 10% in the weight of UPF in the diet, the risk for diabetes increased by 13%. For every 100 g (3.5 oz) increase in the weight of UPF consumed, the risk for diabetes increased by 5%.

The researchers concluded that “even though these results need to be confirmed in other populations and settings, they provide evidence to support efforts by public health authorities to recommend limiting UPF consumption.”


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