White Rice, Bacon, And Other Processed Foods Driving Up Type 2 Diabetes Rates

White Rice, Bacon, And Other Processed Foods Driving Up Type 2 Diabetes Rates

If you didn’t have a good reason to start eating more whole grains and fewer processed meats before, you do now. A recent study examined nearly three decades of data on how 11 different dietary factors across 184 countries influenced the risk of type 2 diabetes. The data sheds light on the fact that being more selective about your food choices may help you reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.

In 2018, the final year of the study, researchers estimated that 14.1 million cases of type 2 diabetes worldwide were caused by poor eating habits. Researchers noted that three factors had a disproportionate impact on the risk of type 2 diabetes. The first factor was not consuming enough whole grains, and the second was consuming too much refined wheat and rice. Finally, the third risk factor was the overconsumption of processed meat (think deli meats and other packaged meats like bacon). Not consuming enough non-starchy vegetables or drinking too much fruit juice didn’t have as big of an impact on type 2 diabetes risk, according to the analysis. 

Another study suggests that unhealthy, simple carbohydrates drive type 2 diabetes globally. The findings from this new study, however, reveal critical areas that require improvement on a global level. 

What Causes Type 2 Diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes develops when the body cannot make or use enough of the hormone insulin to help convert sugars in the foods we eat into energy. There are two primary concerns with diabetes, the first being that the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin, a hormone that regulates the movement of sugar into cells. Secondly, cells respond poorly to insulin and take in less sugar. That causes sugar to accumulate in the bloodstream. Medical experts still don’t fully understand why this happens, but some primary risk factors for type 2 diabetes include being physically inactive, obese or overweight, over the age of 45, or eating a poor diet. Most health experts agree that maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, and eating a healthy diet can help prevent or reverse type 2 diabetes

Type 2 Diabetes Is Increasing Worldwide

The new study, which we mentioned earlier, tracked type 2 diabetes cases from 1990 to 2018. Within that time period, researchers noted that cases climbed in every single one of the 184 countries examined. Certain regions, where diets consist of high amounts of processed meats, red meat, and potatoes, had the most cases of type 2 diabetes. These regions included the United States, Central Asia, and Central and Eastern Europe, according to the study. 

Other regions, where diets include a high consumption of sugary drinks and processed meats, also have a higher proportion of type 2 diabetes cases. For example, many Latin American countries consume more sugary drinks and processed meats and less whole grains, so they have more cases of type 2 diabetes. 

The traditional Western diet tends to be rich in red meat, fried foods, sweets, processed foods, and saturated fats. All of these foods increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, according to registered dietitians. The lack of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other healthy compounds in these foods can increase inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation increases the risk of obesity and it can make it more difficult to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Additionally, these foods make it more difficult to lose weight, even if you include a couple other healthy foods in your diet. 

What Can You Do? 

The good news is that there are small dietary changes that you can make to lower your risk of type 2 diabetes. Health experts recommend the following to help lower your risk:

  • Subbing brown rice in place of refined, enriched white rice. 
  • Fill your plate with lots of whole fruits and vegetables. In fact, half of your plate should always consist of these fresh foods, with one quarter whole grains, and the other quarter lean protein.
  • Replace sugary cereals and breakfast foods with whole grains or fresh fruits and vegetables. A bowl of chia pudding, oatmeal (not from a sugary package), or even a smoothie are great breakfast options.
  • Opt for plant-based proteins, such as chickpeas, black beans, lentils, kidney beans, navy beans, walnuts, almonds, cashews, hemp hearts, and quinoa. Consume those options instead of red meat and other processed meats. 

Results won’t happen overnight, but these small dietary changes can lead to more energy, weight loss, and a lower risk of type 2 diabetes over time. Stick with it and make small improvements to your lifestyle, and your body will thank you.

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