People who have uncertain, insufficient, or inadequate access to food are twice as likely to develop type 2 diabetes, according to Canadian researchers.

Statistics show 3.2 million people in Canada live in food-insecure households. This means financial restraints impact what they buy to eat and the way in which they buy food.

Researchers from the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto say the healthcare system should introduce an intervention helping to reduce food insecurities in a bid to reduce diabetes rates.

Speaking to Reuters news agency, lead author Dr Christopher Tait said: “Increasingly, food insecurity is being recognised as a significant social and health problem in Canada, but there isn’t a great deal of evidence that has linked food insecurity to the risk of future chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes.”

To further investigate, researchers used data from a 12-year study involving 4,739 people which looked at several variables including nutritional and dietary consumptio, alongside income.

The participants of the survey were asked how they felt about buying food, whether they ever missed meals because of affordability and whether they understood which foods were rich in nutrients.

The researchers labelled participants as either ‘household food secure’ or ‘household food insecure’, depending on their answers. They also took into account race, gender, physical activity, alcohol consumption, smoking status, and BMI. Young, white women with lower incomes were found to be more likely to be food insecure. The researchers then matched these people to a national diabetes database.

They found those who were in the food insecure group were twice as likely to develop the condition than those in the other group, meaning food insecurity was associated with increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

Dr Tait said: “Our findings also emphasise the need to continue to monitor this important marker of economic deprivation. This is particularly relevant given Statistics Canada’s decision to make food insecurity measurement optional at the provincial-level as of 2013, which may be a missed opportunity moving forward.”

The results have been published in the PLOS ONE journal.

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