The Latin American Diet may Influence the Development of Type 2 Diabetes

A recent study shows that most cases of type 2 diabetes in Latin America are attributable to the consumption of sugary drinks.

Plate of food

Photo: Cristian Garavito

LatinAmerican Post | July Vanesa López Romero

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Leer en español: La dieta latinoamericana puede influir en el desarrollo de diabetes tipo 2

Recently, a study was published in the journal Nature Medicine in which the increase in cases of T2D (type 2 diabetes) is related to the diets that are taken around the world. The consumption of processed meats, red meat, sugary drinks and refined carbohydrates such as rice and wheat would be the main factors behind this. The study involved 184 countries and data was modeled from 1990 to 2018, the year in which 14 million new cases of T2D were reported, a number that was alarming and set off alarm bells to rethink nutrition and improve it globally.

Also read: Obesogens: Chemicals and Endocrine Disruptors that Damage Metabolism

Also, the study found that men, young adults and urban residents are more likely to develop the disease than women, the elderly and rural residents. In addition, the lack of healthy foods in a diet is less risky for the development of T2D than excessive consumption of unhealthy foods, the research states.

On the other hand, the study showed that the regions with the highest cases of T2D attributable to diet per 1 million inhabitants are Latin America and the Caribbean, followed by the Middle East and North Africa.

Diet in Latin America and the Caribbean

In the case of Latin America and the Caribbean, Colombia and Mexico were where the largest number of T2D cases attributable to a diet with a strong presence of sugary drinks, excess processed meats and insufficient whole grains were found. An investigation carried out by the Latin American Study of Nutrition and Health (ELANS) in 2019 already demonstrated that the region's diet had an alarming lack of nutrient-dense food groups, which leads to a greater risk of developing NCDs, that is, " non-communicable diseases”, such as T2D. This study also mentioned the presence of sugary drinks, red and processed meats, and refined carbohydrates. But why this?

According to the United Nations Organization, Latin America has the most expensive healthy diet in the world, and it is estimated that around 130 million Latin Americans (22.5% of the population) do not have the possibility of accessing it. This is related to food inflation in the region, which is above the global measure and further increased by the Russo-Ukrainian conflict and the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. The UN 2022 Panorama of Food and Nutrition Security study focuses on the fact that the most vulnerable communities are those at the highest risk of developing NCDs and having severe nutrition problems.

In this order of ideas, the Latin American diet is directly mediated by the economic possibilities of the population. Added to this is a cultural factor, in which fatty foods and those that contribute to the development of diseases are the most purchased not only because they are less expensive, but also because they are the most appetizing in terms of taste. A clear case of this is the consumption of sugary drinks in Colombia, which has been in the public eye in recent years. Despite the fact that the health risks that it can entail are known, sugary drinks were protected for a long time by both civil and political sectors so that a special tax would not be applied to reduce consumption.

Taking into account that the study published in Nature Medicine makes its estimates up to 2018, it must be taken into account that the numbers have most likely increased in the last 5 years.

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