Variety in diet is an important factor in reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes, according to a new study, which also highlighted the concerning price gap between a healthy and an unhealthy diet.
Food is categorised into five different types (dairy products, fruits, vegetables, meat and alternatives, and grains), and a study from the University of Cambridge and UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, Los Angeles, California, has found that ensuring a high amount of variety across these categories can help to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
The study looked at data from 23,238 participants of the Food Frequency Questionnaire, which covered the years from 1993 to 1997. They were followed up for a median of 10 years afterwards, to check for the development of health conditions. Overall, 892 cases of diabetes developed in the cohort.
When analysing the data, comparing what people ate to their health, the researchers found that those who had a greater diversity in their diet were at 30 per cent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
It appears that making sure that the daily diet consists of meat, dairy, fruit, vegetable and grains has some form of protective effect against the metabolic condition. However, the research was not able to offer any suggestions as to why this might be the case, other than the general theory that eating a varied diet like this would help ensure that each person was getting the full range of vitamins and minerals that they needed.
When the researchers delved deeper with the analysis, they also found that varying the foods eaten within some of the food groups had even further health benefits.
Variety in the types of vegetables, fruits and dairy products eaten were all associated with a lower incidence of type 2 diabetes.
The cost of health
However, there was one large issue that the research uncovered. Eating the diet that the study found to be healthiest, with plenty of variety in it, cost more per day per person. These protective benefits came at a cost.
In fact, a diet which covered a variety of all five of the food groups was found the be 18 per cent more expensive than a more basic and, according to the findings, less healthy diet.
This worked out to costing £4.15 more per day in order to eat from all five food groups, compared to the price of eating from three or fewer food groups.
As a result, the study called on the government to address this price difference, to help make sure that price does not become a barrier to healthy eating. “Public health efforts to prevent diabetes should include food price policies to promote healthier, more varied diets.”

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