Does a healthy diet curb your risk of type 2 diabetes, even if your genetic risk is high?

In a recent study, researchers analyzed DNA to create genetic risk scores for type 2 diabetes in 35,759 nurses and health professionals.

Then the scientists calculated each person’s diet score over 26 to 30 years, giving points for higher intakes of foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and beans and for lower intakes of foods like red and processed meats, sugary drinks, and fruit juice.

The results: Within any genetic risk category—high, medium, or low—people with the best diet scores had about a 30 percent lower risk of type 2 diabetes than those with the worst scores.

What to do

Aim for a healthy diet even if you have a family history of type 2 diabetes. This type of study can’t prove that diet can lower your risk—because something else about people who eat well may lower risk—but it’s a good bet. 

tangerines in front of a fruit bowl

Subscribe to Nutrition Action

We name names, remain strictly objective, and deliver scrupulously researched advice about food of all kinds, staying healthy with diet and exercise, and more.

Sign up today