Regularly eating "super sized" portions of high calorie fast foods is widely viewed as a contributing factor to the growing number of Americans with bulging waistlines.
Moreover, "it is well established that becoming overweight or obese greatly increases a person's chance of developing (type 2) diabetes," Dr. Julie R. Palmer of Boston University in Massachusetts commented in an email to Reuters Health.
Now Palmer and colleagues report that black women who ate fast food burgers or fried chicken at least twice a week were 40 to 70 percent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes over 10 years than their counterparts who never ate these calorie-laden foods.
According to a report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Palmer's team looked at fast food consumption, lifestyle habits, and the development of diabetes in 44,072 black women who filled out biennial questionnaires, beginning in 1995.
Compared with women who claimed, in 1995 and again in 2001, to never eat fast foods, those who ate burgers, fried chicken or fish, or Chinese food more than once a week had higher body mass index (BMI) on average.
BMI is a standard measure used to gauge how fat or thin a person is. A normal BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9.
According to Palmer and colleagues, not only was the BMI of the fast food eaters in the 28 to 29 range - clearly overweight according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control -- this group also gained more weight during the course of the study.
In the 2,873 women who developed diabetes over 10 years, the researchers noted greater likelihood for the blood sugar disorder in frequent burger and fried chicken eaters, but not eaters of other fast foods, when they allowed for age, education, family history of diabetes, and lifestyle and dietary factors linked to diabetes risk.
However, allowing for body mass reduced the burgers/fried chicken and diabetes link, indicating that associated weight gain that comes with eating too much fast food explains most of the diabetes cases.
Palmer's team suggests similar associations are likely for other women and men, and highlight the need for further investigations into any fast food/diabetes link among other populations.