Minority Women Benefit Most From Healthy Diet

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Minority Women Benefit Most From Healthy Diet
Minority Women Benefit Most From Healthy Diet

A healthy diet appeared to lower risk for type 2 diabetes among women in all racial and ethnic groups, but Asian, Hispanic and black women appeared to reap the most benefit, new data published in Diabetes Care suggest.

Diabetes is a serious health concern for all people, although the disease is more prevalent in black, Latino, Native American and Asian American people. While previous research demonstrates an association between risk for type 2 diabetes and diet, most study populations were primarily composed of white people.

“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.”

Rhee and colleagues followed 156,030 white women, 2,026 Asian women, 2,053 Hispanic women and 2,307 black women in the Nurses' Health Study and Nurses' Health Study II for up to 28 years.

For the study, they created a time-updated dietary diabetes risk reduction score by adding points corresponding with each quartile of intake of eight dietary factors. A higher score indicated a healthier overall diet.

The researchers found 10,922 incident type 2 diabetes cases in white women, 157 in Asian women, 193 in Hispanic women and 307 in black women. Data demonstrated a protective link between healthy diet and type 2 diabetes risk in all racial and ethnic groups.

When compared with the highest quartile of dietary diabetes risk reduction score, results associated a healthy diet with a 48% lower risk for diabetes in white women, 42% in Asian women, 55% in Hispanic women and 32% in black women, according to the study results.

Further, the highest quartile of dietary score was linked with a 36% lower risk for diabetes vs. the lowest quartile when all minority women were combined into one group.

Because minority women were initially at a higher risk for diabetes than white women, however, they benefited most from a healthy diet in terms of actual number of avoidable diabetes cases. Results suggested that 5.3 diabetes cases could be prevented per 1,000 white women annually with a healthier diet vs. 8.0 cases per 1,000 minority women annually.

Higher glycemic index foods, each serving of sugar-sweetened beverages, and red and processed meats were linked to higher risk for diabetes, whereas higher intake of cereal fiber and each cup of coffee per day were associated with lower diabetes risk in both white and minority women.

“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.


  1. Rhee JJ et al. Diabetes Care. 2015;doi:10.2337/dc14-1986.
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