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Eating fast increases diabetes risk

06 May 2012 European Society of Endocrinology

People who wolf down their food are two and a half times more likely to suffer from type 2 diabetes than those who take their time according to new research presented at the joint International Congress of Endocrinology and European Congress of Endocrinology in Florence, Italy. 

While numerous studies have linked eating quickly to overeating and obesity, this is the first time eating speed has been identified as an independent risk factor for type 2 diabetes.

A Lithuanian research team led by Dr Lina Radzeviciene compared 234 newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes patients to 468 people who were free from the disease.  Cases and controls (ratio 1:2) were matched by gender and age (±5 years). The participants filled out an in-depth questionnaire designed to collect information on possible diabetes risk factors in which they rated their eating speed compared to others (slower, the same, faster). Body measurements (height, weight, waist and hip circumference) were also taken according to World Health Organisation recommendations.

After adjusting for other risk factors (a family history of diabetes, education, morning exercise, body mass index, waist circumference, cigarette smoking and plasma triglyceride levels) the researchers found a more than two-fold increase in the risk of type 2 diabetes associated with faster eating habits (odds ratio (OR) = 2.52, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.56-4.06).  Additional findings showed the cases had a higher body mass index and significantly lower education level compared to the controls.

Diabetes mellitus is a very common disorder caused by high levels of sugar in the bloodstream. It affects 6.4% (285 million) of the worldwide population and is associated with an increased risk of heart attacks, stroke and damage to the eyes, feet and kidneys. In type 2 diabetes, which accounts for 90% of all cases, insulin – a hormone that allows cells to take sugar from the bloodstream and store it as energy – does not work properly.

Researcher Dr Lina Radzeviciene from Lithuanian University of Health Sciences said:

“The prevalence of type 2 diabetes is increasing globally and becoming a world pandemic. It appears to involve interaction between susceptible genetic backgrounds and environmental factors. It’s important to identify modifiable risk factors that may help people reduce their chances of developing the disease.”

Dr Radzeviciene’s team previously found that coffee consumption (four or more cups a day) significantly decreased risk of type 2 diabetes. They also found that smoking and egg consumption (more than five eggs a week) increased the risk. They now hope to perform a larger study looking at how particular types of food, calorie intake, physical exercise, and psychological and emotional wellbeing affect diabetes risk factors.

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