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Research Findings: Healthy Diet Linked to Reduced Type 2 Diabetes Risk, Independent of Genetic Factors

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A new study from the University of Eastern Finland has shown that following a diet that aligns with nutritional recommendations is linked to better blood glucose levels and a reduced risk of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. This benefit was observed even in individuals with a high genetic predisposition to type 2 diabetes. The findings were published in the European Journal of Nutrition.

Type 2 diabetes has a strong genetic component, but it can be prevented or delayed through a healthy lifestyle, including proper diet and exercise.

“Until now, it was unclear whether a healthy diet benefits everyone equally, regardless of their genetic risk,” said Doctoral Researcher Ulla Tolonen of the University of Eastern Finland.

The cross-sectional study analyzed the dietary habits and blood glucose levels of over 1,500 middle-aged and elderly men participating in the broader Metabolic Syndrome in Men Study (METSIM). Food consumption was assessed using a food frequency questionnaire, and blood glucose levels were measured through a two-hour glucose tolerance test. Participants’ genetic risk for type 2 diabetes was calculated based on 76 genetic variants associated with the disease.

Researchers identified two dietary patterns based on participants’ food consumption. The “healthy” dietary pattern included vegetables, berries, fruits, vegetable oils, fish, poultry, potatoes, unsweetened and low-fat yogurt, low-fat cheese, and whole grain products like porridge, pasta, and rice. This diet was linked to lower blood glucose levels and a reduced risk of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.

The study also investigated the impact of genetic risk on the relationship between diet and glucose metabolism. The benefits of a healthy diet on glucose metabolism were evident in individuals with both low and high genetic risk for diabetes.

“Our findings suggest that a healthy diet is beneficial for everyone, regardless of their genetic risk,” Tolonen concluded.