Consumption of ultra-processed foods linked to diabetes risk

Using data from more than 100,000 adults who recorded their food intake over a ten-year period, researchers found each 10% increase of ultra-processed foods within the diet was independently associated with a 15% increase in the risk of incident diabetes.

Teenagers eating ultra-processed food

Consuming greater proportions of ultra-processed foods is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), results of a prospective cohort study in JAMA Internal Medicine have suggested (16 December 2019)[1]

The researchers studied 104,707 participants aged 18 years and over who recorded their 24-hour food intake recurrently over a ten-year period (mean: 5.7 times).

During a median follow-up of six years, there were 821 new cases of T2DM. Each 10% increase of ultra-processed foods within the diet was associated with a 15% increase in the risk of incident diabetes (hazard ratio 1.15; 95% confidence interval, 1.06-1.25).

In the past, the consumption of ultra-processed foods has been linked to an increased risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease and mortality, but its association with T2DM has not been explored. According to the researchers, ultra-processed foods are foods undergoing multiple physical, biological, and/or chemical processes and generally contain food additives. 

The researchers said that the mechanisms associated with T2DM could go beyond the lower nutritional quality of the diet and weight gain (which the models accounted for), and perhaps be related to the roles of some additives and contaminants from processing, such as acrylamide and trans fats.

“[The findings] need to be confirmed in large prospective cohorts in other settings, and underlying mechanisms need to be explored in ad hoc epidemiological and experimental studies,” they wrote.


[1] Srour B, Fezeu L, Kesse-Guyot E et al. Ultraprocessed food consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes among participants of the NutriNet-Santé prospective cohort. JAMA Internal Med 2020;180(2):283–291. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2019.5942

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, February 2020, Vol 304, No 7934;304(7934):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2020.20207633

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