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Global study reveals food plan’s role in 70% of latest type 2 diabetes cases

In a recent study published within the journal Nature Medicine, researchers used a novel risk assessment model to estimate absolute and proportional burdens of latest type 2 diabetes (T2D) cases globally amongst adults in 184 countries, especially direct and body weight-mediated effects of 11 dietary aspects, individually and jointly.

Study: Incident type 2 diabetes attributable to suboptimal food plan in 184 countries. Image Credit: Lightspring / Shutterstock


T2D is a number one reason behind mortality globally and has vast socio-economic repercussions. Between 1980 and 2021, the number of individuals living with diabetes (90% T2D cases) surged from 108 to 537 million globally, with corresponding increases in obesity amongst adults.

The incidence of T2D has only increased globally prior to now 40 years and is on the rise constantly; if left unchecked, T2D will deteriorate human health and economic productivity even further, thus exerting immense pressure on healthcare systems worldwide.

Studies have evidenced direct- and weight gain-mediated effects of several dietary aspects on the etiology of T2D. Yet, absolute and proportional contributions of suboptimal food plan or specific dietary aspects on the worldwide T2D incidence remain unclear.

Concerning the study

In the current study, researchers estimated the consequences of 11 dietary aspects, viz., inadequate intake of whole grains, fruits, nuts, yogurt, seeds, and vegetables (non-starchy) and excessive consumption of refined wheat and rice, unprocessed pork, processed meat, sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), fruit juices, and potatoes on global T2D incidence.

They made these estimates using dietary data from the Global Dietary Database (GDD) for adults in 184 countries. The team presented absolutely the change within the proportional burden of T2D attributable to suboptimal food plan and every risk factor between 1990 and 2018 globally stratified by world region.

GDD delineated all 184 countries into world regions, which helped the researchers specifically discuss T2D trends within the 30 most populous countries for 4 dietary aspects, inadequate fruit, nuts, seeds, and non-starchy vegetable intake, and excessive intake of fruit juices based on effects mediated through weight gain.

They stratified their findings by age, gender, urbanicity, and education of participating individuals. As well as, they stratified country-wise findings by sociodemographic index (SDI), a measure of a rustic’s development. SDI is expressed on a scale of zero to at least one based on the common rankings of educational achievement, per capita income, and fertility rates.

The researchers used proportional multiplication to estimate the burden attributable to a suboptimal food plan, assuming that fifty% good thing about whole-grain intake is attributable to substituting it with refined wheat and rice intake. They modeled the consequences of refined rice and wheat intake individually but combined this using proportional multiplication.

The team compared T2D incidence trends between 1990 and 2018 and reported all data as a median and the corresponding 95% UI, based on the quantification of uncertainty using 1,000 multiway probabilistic Monte Carlo simulations.


The study model estimated that, in 2018, suboptimal intake of 11 dietary aspects led to 14.1 million latest T2D cases globally. Excessive consumption of harmful dietary aspects contributed towards a better percentage of this burden than inadequate consumption of protective dietary aspects (60.8% vs. 39.2%). Insufficient whole grain intake led to most T2D cases globally (26.1%), followed by excessive intake of refined wheat & rice (24.6%), processed meat (20.3%), and unprocessed pork (20.1%).

The researchers noted marked heterogeneity in T2D incidence attributable to an overall suboptimal food plan and individual dietary aspects on the country level and worldwide. As well as, they observed an inverse correlation between diet-attributable T2D incidence and age. Nevertheless, absolutely the T2D burden, assessed per million population, was highest at middle age, i.e., between 45 and 60 years, indicating an interplay between variations in dietary habits vs. absolute T2D risk at various ages.

Further, among the dietary aspects showed substantial regional heterogeneity. Regionally, probably the most increases and reduces in diet-attributable T2D incidence occurred in sub-Saharan Africa (+9.3 in absolute percentage points) and high-income countries (−1.5%), respectively.

As an example, within the Middle East, North Africa (+4.1%), and sub-Saharan Africa (+3.3%), refined wheat and rice intake increased T2D incidence, whereas T2D cases attributable to excess refined rice declined in South Asia, Central-eastern European regions and Central Asia but increased attributable to excessive refined wheat intake in the identical regions.

The diet-attributable T2D incidence was higher in men vs. women, for people with higher vs. lower education, and in urban vs. rural settings; nonetheless, in high-income countries, Central Asia, and Central and Eastern Europe, its diet-attributable T2D incidence was higher in less educated people. In populous countries, e.g., Poland and Russia, excessive unprocessed red & processed meat and potato intake mainly drove relatively higher T2D burdens. For the reason that Nineties, the correlation between country-level diet-attributable T2D incidence and socio-economic development turned less robust. Latin America and the Caribbean stood second in diet-attributable T2D burden, especially Colombia and Mexico, where excessive SSBs, processed meats intake, and inadequate whole grains intake drove increased T2D incidence.

In regions with higher diet-attributable T2D burdens in individuals with higher education, e.g., high-income countries, educational and social safety intervention programs should goal a nutritious food plan to scale back T2D-related health inequities. Conversely, in regions where diet-attributable T2D burdens were highest in highly educated adults, e.g., South Asia, other approaches, corresponding to proper package labeling, could be simpler. Financial markets could significantly contribute to global human health and equity by investing in the manufacturing, marketing, and selling products aligned with societal goals.

Data suggests that body mass index (BMI) is increasing rapidly in rural regions of low- and middle-income countries attributable to more supply of processed foods in these areas. Thus, managing these dietary and health-related inequities would require interventions and public health policies customized to regional circumstances. Notably, the T2D incidence attributable to direct etiologic effects of dietary aspects was generally higher than their separate BMI-mediated effects. In light of those findings, multisectoral strategies to enhance food plan quality throughout life would remain vital, especially during childhood and adolescence, when people often form lifetime dietary habits.

While in 2018, there was a modest correlation between diet-attributable T2D burden and SDI (r = 0.29) that varied by world region. The authors noted a positive correlation in sub-Saharan African countries, South Asia, and high-income countries and a negative correlation in Latin American, Central Asian, Central and Eastern European nations, the Caribbean, and Southeast and East Asia. Nevertheless, this correlation turned more robust in 1990 (r = 0.53) than in 2018, and these trends became comparable across all world regions. These findings identified that while food plan quality worsened in lower-SDI countries; nonetheless, there was no sociodemographic development alongside.


The study highlighted carbohydrate quality as an area that needs immediate attention. Specifically, excessively refined rice and wheat intake and inadequate consumption of whole grains, as the highest two dietary drivers of T2D globally, albeit trends varied temporally and by world region. In proportional diet-related T2D burden, of all 11 dietary- aspects assessed, excessive intake of unprocessed pork contributed probably the most to the worldwide increase in T2D incidence. To conclude, these findings should inform clinical and public health planning to enhance dietary quality globally to scale back the worldwide T2D burden.

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