Individuals who consume large amounts of ultra-processed foods such as ham and sausages may be at a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, a study showed Wednesday.
Korea University’s Division of Health Policy and Management discovered a link between ultra-processed foods and Type 2 diabetes after studying 7,438 test subjects between ages 40 to 69 living in Ansan and Anseong of Gyeonggi Province over a time span of around 15 years. Research was conducted from 2001 to 2019.
Of all ultra-processed foods -- highly processed and modified foods that contain food additives such as sweeteners, preservatives and food coloring -- ham and sausages had the strongest link with the development of diabetes. Korea University's research team deduced that if an individual’s average intake of ham and sausages increased by one percent, their risk of developing diabetes would surge by 40 percent.
The consumption of ice cream also increased the risk of developing diabetes by eight percent, while consuming instant noodles and carbonated soft drinks increased the risk by five percent and two percent, respectively.
Participants were divided into four groups based on their intake of ultra-processed foods, and those with the highest intake were estimated to have a higher risk of developing diabetes by 34 percent on average compared to those with the lowest intake.
The research process involved multiple surveys addressing subjects on their food intake using a questionnaire with 103 questions from 2001 and 2002. The team then observed them to see whether they had developed diabetes until 2019. A total of 1,187 cases of diabetes were confirmed at health checkups as a result.
However, the research team found that higher intakes of candy and chocolate were not linked to an increased risk of diabetes. Such results suggested that further research is necessary to come up with solid conclusions on the mechanism of Type 2 diabetes, the team added in its report.
The findings were published in the latest issue of a peer-reviewed scientific journal, "The Journal of Nutrition."
“Other studies have already proven that ultra-processed foods increase the risk of obesity, high blood pressure and dyslipidemia,” said professor Hannah Oh, who led the research team.
“Diabetes is a chronic disease like high blood pressure and dyslipidemia, so it can lead to complications such as cardiovascular diseases and kidney diseases. Therefore, it is important to make consistent efforts to reduce the intake of ultra-processed foods in our daily lives," she added.