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Hispanic women benefit the most from healthy diet

Hispanic women saw the most benefit of a healthy diet when it came to type 2 diabetes prevention. (Shutterstock)

When it comes to type 2 diabetes, a healthy diet benefits everyone. Minority women, however, seem to benefit the most, according to researchers, because they’re at a higher diabetes risk to start.

Recent research published in the journal Diabetes Care followed more than 150,000 women for a period of 28 years as a part of the Nurses’ Health Study and Nurses’ Health Study II. During this time, experts categorized the study participants based on their dietary habits, ethnicity and diabetes risk. Not surprisingly, minority women had the highest diabetes rates after the data was evaluated.

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Also as expected, a healthy diet was directly associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes regardless of a woman’s race/ethnicity. The surprise came later when researchers discovered healthy diet worked better for some women than others, particularly minority women who have the highest risk for type 2 diabetes in the first place.

Red meat is healthy in small portions
Red meat and processed foods were associated with a higher type 2 diabetes risk. (Shutterstock)

Overall, a healthy diet was associated with a 48 percent lower risk for diabetes in non-Hispanic white women, 42 percent in Asian women, 55 percent in Hispanic women and 32 percent in non-Hispanic black women, according to the study results.

Though Hispanic women benefited the most from healthy diet, when type 2 diabetes risk was factored in, minority women as a whole had a better risk reduction compared to non-Hispanic whites.

When risks were reduced due to a healthy diet, 5.3 diabetes cases could be prevented per 1,000 non-Hispanic white women annually, compared to 8 cases per 1,000 minority women annually.

“This study suggests that a healthy overall diet can play a vital role in preventing type 2 diabetes, particularly in minority women who have elevated risks of heart disease,” lead author Jinnie J. Rhee, postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University School of Medicine, said in a press release. “As the incidence of type 2 diabetes continues to increase at an alarming rate worldwide, these findings can have global importance for what may be the largest public health threat of this century.”

Materials from the Harvard School of Public Health indicate a diet designed to prevent type 2 diabetes should have a focus on whole grains, elimination of sugary beverages, limiting red and processed meats, and swapping out trans fats for healthy polyunsaturated fats. Rhee’s study specifically looked at these areas when it came to determining which participants were eating healthy diets.

“This finding confirms that we are all in the same boat when it comes to preventing type 2 diabetes by diet. Our next challenge is to put this knowledge into practice so everyone can benefit,” study researcher Walter Willett Willett, MD, DrPH, Frederick John Stare Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition and chair of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, said in the release.

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In addition to avoiding certain unhealthy foods, researchers found higher intake of cereal fiber and each cup of coffee per day were associated with lower diabetes risk in both white and minority women.

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