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11 November 2008

Energy-dense foods may raise diabetes risk

By Joene Hendry

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A diet packed with energy-dense foods, those containing more calories per volume, may increase a person's risk of developing diabetes, new research suggests.

Adults consuming the most, versus the least, energy-dense diets had a 60 percent higher risk for type 2 diabetes in a study conducted by Dr. Nita Forouhi, senior clinical research scientist at the Institute of Metabolic Science in Cambridge, United Kingdom, and colleagues.

Moreover, the association between highly energy-dense diets and the development of diabetes appears independent of body weight, total caloric intake, fat intake, and lifestyle factors, the researchers report in the journal Diabetes Care.

High energy-dense foods include highly processed foods, fatty foods, meats, and calorie-laden fruit or soft drinks, whereas low energy-dense foods include fresh fruits and vegetables, water and calorie-free drinks.

Ounce for ounce, high energy-dense foods tend to contain more energy (calories) and have been associated with weight gain and elevated blood sugar.

In their 12-year study, Forouhi's team assessed "new-onset" type 2 diabetes among 21,919 adults aged 40 to 79 years who were free of diabetes, cancer, or cardiovascular disease at the start of the study.

"Food frequency" data obtained at enrollment showed that those with highest energy-dense diets averaged 2,592 daily calories (36.6 percent from fat). This group consumed greater amounts of meat, processed meat, and soft drinks, and lower amounts of fresh vegetables and fruit, and water or other calorie-free beverages.

By contrast, those with the lowest energy-dense diets averaged 1,539 calories per day (29 percent from fat) and consumed more fresh vegetables, fruit, and calorie-free drinks, and less meats, processed meats, and soft drinks.

During follow up, 725 people developed 2 diabetes and those with the most energy-dense diets, compared with the least, had 60 percent higher risk for developing diabetes.

Although more study is needed, these findings suggest that adoption of healthier, less energy-dense diets in combination with other lifestyle factors and physical activity "could potentially be important in the prevention of diabetes," Forouhi said.

SOURCE: Diabetes Care, November 2008

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