Healthy Diet Trims Diabetes Risk in Minority Women

January 27, 2015

The risk is lowered more in minority women than in white women with a healthy diet, which can play a vital role in prevention.

A healthy diet lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM) more in minority women than in white woman, according to a new study.

Consuming a healthy diet reduced the risk of type 2 DM among women in all racial and ethnic groups, but it conferred an even greater benefit for Asian, Hispanic, and black women, who are at higher absolute risk for type 2 DM.

“This study suggests that a healthy overall diet can play a vital role in preventing type 2 DM, particularly in minority women who have elevated risks of the disease,” said lead author Jinnie Rhee, who conducted the research as a doctoral student in the Departments of Epidemiology and Nutrition at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow in the Division of Nephrology at Stanford University School of Medicine, Palo Alto, Calif.

Previous studies have shown links between diet and the risk of type 2 DM, but most have been conducted in predominantly white populations.

The researchers analyzed data on diet in more than 156,000 non-Hispanic white women and 2026 Asian, 2053 Hispanic, and 2307 black women in the Nurses’ Health Study and Nurses’ Health Study II. The data were adjusted for age, physical activity, smoking, family history of DM, alcohol intake, postmenopausal status, menopausal hormone or oral contraceptive use, total caloric intake, and body mass index. The women, who filled out diet questionnaires every 4 years, were monitored for up to 28 years.

The researchers created a dietary DM risk reduction score. A higher score indicated a healthier overall diet that included lower intake of saturated and trans fats, sugar-sweetened beverages, and red and processed meats; lower glycemic index foods; and higher intakes of cereal fiber, polyunsaturated fats, coffee, and nuts.

“A higher dietary diabetes risk reduction score was inversely associated with risk of type 2 DM in all racial and ethnic groups, but the absolute risk difference was greater in minority women,” the researchers stated.

For a combined minority women group, those in the highest quartile of dietary score had a 36% lower risk of DM compared with women in the lowest quartile. However, because minority women were initially at higher risk for DM than white women, in terms of the actual number of avoidable cases, a healthier diet had greater benefit for minority women. The analysis showed that 5.3 cases of DM can be prevented per 1000 white women per year with a healthier overall diet compared with 8.0 cases that can be prevented per 1000 minority women per year.

In both white and minority women, higher glycemic index foods as well as each serving of sugar-sweetened beverages and red and processed meats were associated with an increased risk of DM. In contrast, higher intake of cereal fiber and each cup of coffee per day were associated with reduced DM risk in both groups.

The researchers published their results online January 15, 2015, in Diabetes Care.