Ultra-Processed Foods Linked to Type 2 Diabetes

High consumption of ultra-processed foods is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, according to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Consumption of ultra-processed foods has been linked to other diseases, such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, mortality, depression, and metabolic disorders; however, previous research has not linked type 2 diabetes with this food consumption.

This large, observational, prospective, population-based cohort study included 104,707 adult participants (mean age at baseline, 42.7 years; 79.2% were women) from the ongoing, web-based French NutriNet-Santé study that began in 2009. Researchers collected dietary intake data via repeated 24-hour dietary records (average, 5.7 per participant) to register participants’ usual consumption of more than 3,500 different foods, which were categorized according to their degree of processing by the NOVA classification system.

Absolute type 2 diabetes rate was 113 per 100,000 person-years in the lowest consumers of ultra-processed foods compared with 166 per 100,000 person-years in the highest consumers of ultra-processed foods.

After a median follow-up of six years, it was determined that consumption of ultra-processed foods was associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes (multi-adjusted hazard ratio [HR] for an absolute increment of 10 in the percentage of ultra-processed foods in the diet, 1.15; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.06-1.25). These results remained statistically significant after adjusting for several markers of the nutritional quality of the diet, for other metabolic comorbidities (HR, 1.13; 95% CI, 1.03-1.23), and for weight change (HR, 1.13; 95% CI, 1.01-1.27).

The absolute amount of ultra-processed food consumption (grams per day) was consistently associated with type 2 diabetes, even when adjusting for unprocessed or minimally processed food intake (HR for a 100 g/d increase, 1.05; 95% CI, 1.02-1.08).

The study’s results “provide evidence to support efforts by public health authorities to recommend limiting ultra-processed food consumption,” the researchers concluded.