Journal Entry

Ultra-processed food and risk of type 2 diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis of longitudinal studies

               Diabetes, a metabolic disorder, heightens the likelihood of adverse effects such as renal complications, cardiac issues, and early mortality. Availability and accessibility to high density and low cost, but nutrient deficient, foods accelerate diabetes into overdrive. One of the main components of this are ultra-processed foods. These processed foods consist of whole foods that has been fractionated into smaller substances that have been modified with chemicals and cosmetic additives. Because these foods make the consumer fuller for longer without much nutrition, other nutrient rich foods (like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) are put on the back burner. This study looks at how the ultra-processed foods are an important driver of obesity and diabetes worldwide.

               A systematic review and meta-analysis were preformed using the PUBMED, Scopus, Scielo, and Embase databases. Terms such as “junk food, ultra-processed, ready-to-eat, fast food, candy, ham, salami, diabetes, type 2 diabetes” and more were used with Boolean operators including “OR” and “AND”. Eighteen studies were ultimately picked with a total of 1.1 million individuals. Thirteen of those studies showed that, as compared with non-consumption of ultra-processed foods, high consumption of those types of foods led to an increased risk of diabetes by 86%. Three other studies showed an increased risk of diabetes from consumption of highly-processed food by 53%. One study found that an extra 50 grams of processed meat daily increased the likelihood of acquiring diabetes by 37%. These studies were taken from all over the world including the United States, China, Finland, the UK, France, Japan, South Korea, and many others. This just goes to show that the prevalence and incidence of diabetes is world-wide and not just “an American problem.”

               Ultimately, this study showed that there was a positive association between consuming ultra-processed foods and the increased risk of acquiring diabetes mellitus 2. The longer a person went with consuming high-processed foods, the higher the risk of diabetes was. Some of the studies touched on children and adolescents who consumed highly processed foods and highly caloric and sweetened drinks were associated with greater waist circumference, but not to their glucose metabolism. Educating patients in stopping their consumption of ultra-processed foods and switching to fruits and vegetables, as well as introducing physical activity, has been shown to reduce the risk of diabetes. Some governments outside of the US have seen a decrease in consumption of processed foods when the price of the ultra-processed foods goes up.

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