Eating lots of red meat, dairy products and sweets - staples of the so-called western diet - may significantly increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in men, according to a major study in the US.
Furthermore the results of the survey, published in the latest issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, show that a diet rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables, fish and poultry may offer some protection against the disease.
People suffering from type 2 diabetes are unable to properly use insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas which helps transfer glucose from the blood into the cells to be used as a source of energy.
Researchers at Harvard University and the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment in the Netherlands discovered that western diets were associated with a 59 per cent increase in the risk of type 2 diabetes among men, regardless of obesity, one of the major causes of the disease.
However, the combination of the diet, obesity and a lack of exercise led to a particularly high risk of developing type 2 diabetes, the research showed.
The research team looked at 42,500 men aged between 40 and 75 when the study began in 1986. They tracked the dietary habits and new diagnoses of type 2 diabetes and discovered that about 1,300 men developed the disease. Men with the highest intakes of the so-called prudent foods were 16 per cent less likely than men with the lowest intakes to be diagnosed with the disease.
The researchers added that further research was needed to confirm the association between the western diet and diabetes risk in women and various ethnic groups, as the men in this study were predominantly white.