Fish diet is the best way to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes

A fish-based diet rather than any other type of diet appears to be associated with the greatest reduction in risk of developing type 2 diabetes

A fish-based diet appears to be the best way to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to a poultry, meat, or even vegetarian diet. That’s the conclusion of a UK Biobank analysis by researchers from the UK, Thailand and Chile.

Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder that leads to hyperglycemia and is a global health concern. A 2017 estimate suggested that around 462 million people were affected (6.28% of the world’s population), resulting in 1 million deaths per year. Many cases of type 2 diabetes could potentially be prevented by lifestyle changes, including maintaining a healthy body weight, healthy diet, physical activity, not smoking, and drinking alcohol in moderation. In fact, a 2017 systemic review identified how the risk of diabetes is reduced by eating more whole grains, fruits and dairy products, but the risk is increased by eating more red meat, processed meat and sugary drinks. However, there is some uncertainty as to whether a specific type of diet, for example a fish, poultry or vegetarian diet, has a greater impact on the risk of developing diabetes.

For this analysis, the team turned to UK Biobank Database to explore the associations between different diets and the risk of incident type 2 diabetes. In addition, the researchers examined the extent to which adiposity might impact these associations. Within the UK Biobank, participants fill out food frequency questionnaires and based on the responses, individuals were categorized as vegetarians, fish eaters, fish and poultry eaters and finally meat eaters. A number of participants reported having a varied diet and the effect on this type of diet was analyzed separately. The results were analyzed using Cox proportional hazard models which provided a measure of the association between different diets and the risk of type 2 diabetes and the models were adjusted for several factors including age, sex, alcohol consumption, smoking status, etc.

Fish diet and risk of type 2 diabetes

A total of 203,790 people were included in the analysis, of which 1.6% were vegetarians, 2.2% ate fish, 1.1% ate fish and poultry, 87.3% ate meat and 7.8% said they had a varied diet. The mean age of the groups ranged from 52.8 to 56.5 years and after exclusion of the first two years, individuals were followed for a median of 5.4 years. During follow-up, 5,067 (2.5%) participants developed type 2 diabetes.

Using meat eaters as a reference, a fish-based diet had the lowest risk of developing type 2 diabetes (relative risk, HR = 0.41, 95% CI 0.31 – 0.55, p

Interestingly, general obesity was a partial mediator of fish diet, accounting for 49.8% of their lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The authors concluded that fish-based diets produced the greatest reduction in the risk of developing diabetes and that this effect was largely due to fish eaters having lower levels of fatness.

Boonpor J et al. Diet types, obesity and incident type 2 diabetes: results from the UK Biobank prospective cohort study Diabetes Obés Metab 2022

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