What foods cause type 2 diabetes?

By Dr. Austin Smith

There is scientific evidence that suggests that certain foods like refined grains and sugary beverages are associated (that is, they tend to go hand-in-hand) with an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes mellitus. Studies have also shown an association between eating foods that contain trans fats and an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. But these studies, by their design, were not intended to evaluate whether these foods could be identified as having caused type 2 diabetes. Another type of study would be better suited to test whether certain foods can be identified as causes of type 2 diabetes. While it would be advisable to minimize one’s intake of refined grains, trans fats, and sugary beverages for a number of other health reasons, it can’t be said that these foods by themselves are responsible for causing type 2 diabetes.

It’s important to note that obesity is also associated with an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Not everyone who is obese develops type 2 diabetes. But there is an association between obesity and developing type 2 diabetes–and that association is strong.

Obesity, like type 2 diabetes, can be caused by any combination of a number of genetic and environmental factors. Among those that can be modified to prevent obesity, diet and exercise spring to the top of the list. Please see our other, related post on how to prevent diabetes.

Learn more about reversing diabetes through nutrition.


Aune, D., Norat, T., Romundstad, P., & Vatten, L. J. (2013). Whole grain and refined grain consumption and the risk of type 2 diabetes: A systematic review and dose–response meta-analysis of cohort studies. European Journal of Epidemiology,28(11), 845-858. doi:10.1007/s10654-013-9852-5

Salmerón, J., Hu, F. B., Manson, J. E., Stampfer, M. J., Colditz, G. A., Rimm, E. B., & Willett, W. C. (2001). Dietary fat intake and risk of type 2 diabetes in women. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,73(6), 1019-1026. doi:10.1093/ajcn/73.6.1019

Schulze, M. B., Manson, J. E., Ludwig, D. S., Colditz, G. A., Stampfer, M. J., Willett, W. C., & Hu, F. B. (2004). Sugar-Sweetened Beverages, Weight Gain, and Incidence of Type 2 Diabetes in Young and Middle-Aged Women. Jama,292(8), 927. doi:10.1001/jama.292.8.927

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