Eating Homemade Meals Reduced Risk for Type 2 Diabetes, Weight Gain

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People who eat homemade meals tend to eat more whole grain, low-fat dairy products, fruits, and vegetables.
People who eat homemade meals tend to eat more whole grain, low-fat dairy products, fruits, and vegetables.

ORLANDO, Fla. — Eating more homemade meals helps lower weight gain and sugar-sweetened beverage intake, which can lower the risk for type 2 diabetes, according to research presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions.

During a press conference, Geng Zong, PhD, a research fellow in the department of nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said that previous research indicates a substantial decrease in the percentage of daily energy intake from sources outside the home over the past 50 years.

Unfortunately, he noted, people who eat prepared meals in restaurants tend to have poorer diet quality and increased weight gain, and this increase in eating outside the home has coincided with rising rates of obesity and diabetes.

To investigate the association between the frequency of meals prepared at home and the risk for type 2 diabetes, Dr Zong and colleagues analyzed data from 57 994 women from the Nurses' Health Study and 41 679 men from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. None of the participants were diagnosed with diabetes, cancer, or cardiovascular disease at the start of the study. They recorded the weekly frequency of meals prepared at home, and the researchers followed participants from 1986 to 2012.

The participants who ate more meals prepared at home had higher consumption of whole grains, low-fat dairy products, fruits, and vegetables at the start of the study, the researchers reported.  They also ate more red meat and had lower coffee intake.

Over 8 years, women who ate 11 to 14 homemade meals per week had approximately 0.45 kg less weight gain than women who had 0 to 6 homemade meals per week, and men had approximately 0.41 kg less weight gain for the same comparison.

The researchers compiled pooled hazard ratios (HRs) for type 2 diabetes risk for participants who ate 7 to 8, 9 to 10, and 11 to 14 homemade meals per week compared with those who had less than 6 (HR=0.96, 95% CI, 0.96-0.88, respectively). Any additional homemade lunch meal per week was associated with a 2% lower risk for type 2 diabetes, and any additional homemade dinner meal was associated with a 4% lower risk (P<.001).

Overall, individuals who ate approximately 11 to 14 homemade meals per week had a 13% lower risk for developing type 2 diabetes compared with those who had less than 6 homemade meals each week.

Dr Zong emphasized that the study is purely observational and no causal inference could be made.

The take-home message, he said, is that preparing more meals at home, especially for families with children, may lower risk for obesity and type 2 diabetes. If people must eat out, he added, they should try not to choose fast food.

Dr Zong also noted that these issues are partially driven by economic changes.

“Action is needed to improve the quality of food,” he said. “Fast food should not only be quick, but it also should be healthy.”

Reference

  1. Zong G, Eisenberg DM, Hu FB, et al. S 2020 - Frequent Consumption of Meals Prepared at Home and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes Among American Men and Women. Frequent Consumption of Meals Prepared at Home and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes Among American Men and Women. Presented at American Heart Association Scientific Sessions; November 7-11, 2015; Orlando, FL.
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