Poor diet, regardless of genetic risk factors, is associated with a 30% increased risk of diabetes


Genetic risk factors and diet quality are independently associated with type 2 diabetes; a healthy diet is linked to a lower risk of diabetes at all levels of genetic risk. This is the conclusion of a study of more than 35,000 American adults and published on April 26 in OLP Medicine by Jordi Merino of Massachusetts General Hospital, USA, and colleagues.

Genetic and lifestyle factors are known to contribute to individual susceptibility to type 2 diabetes. Previous studies have shown that adherence to a healthy lifestyle is associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes according to genetic profiles, but it was unclear whether genetic profiles partly interacted with lifestyle factors. In the new study, researchers analyzed data from three in-depth cohort studies, including 35,759 U.S. healthcare professionals followed for 902,386 person-years of follow-up.

The team found that regardless of genetic risk, a low-quality diet, compared to a high-quality diet, was associated with a 30% increased risk of type 2 diabetes (Pinteraction=0.69). The relative risk of type 2 diabetes was 1.29 (95% CI 1.25-1.32, PHealthy Eating Index, a measure of diet quality. The joint association of poor diet quality and increased genetic risk was similar to the sum of the risk for each factor alone (Pinteraction =0.30), supporting more independent associations. That said, one of the limitations of the study was that cohort sampling was not necessarily generalizable to other populations.

Merino adds, “This study provided evidence that the risk of type 2 diabetes attributed to increased genetic risk and poor diet quality is similar to the sum of the risks associated with each factor alone. Such knowledge could be used to inform and design future strategies to advance diabetes prevention.”

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