Diet and risk of chronic diseases: results from the first 8 years of follow-up in the EPIC-Potsdam study

Eur J Clin Nutr. 2013 Apr;67(4):412-9. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2013.7. Epub 2013 Feb 6.


Background/objectives: There is still a need for scientific evidence about which foods characterize a healthy diet in terms of primary prevention of major chronic diseases. Therefore, we aimed to give a comprehensive overview on health-related foods, based on 8 years of follow-up of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC)-Potsdam study.

Subjects/methods: We used data from 23,531 participants of the EPIC-Potsdam study to analyse the associations between 45 single food groups and risk of major chronic diseases, namely, cardiovascular diseases (CVD), type 2 diabetes and cancer using multivariable-adjusted Cox regression. Habitual dietary intake was assessed at baseline using food-frequency questionnaires. Incident chronic diseases were determined by self-administered follow-up questionnaires and medically verified, based on inquiry to treating physicians, cancer registries or through death certificates.

Results: During follow-up, 363 incident CVD, 837 type 2 diabetes and 844 cancer cases were identified. Higher intakes of whole-grain bread, raw vegetables, coffee and cakes and cookies were found to be significantly associated with a lower risk of chronic diseases. Conversely, higher intakes of low-fat dairy, butter, red meat and sauce were associated with higher risks of chronic diseases.

Conclusion: Overall, a healthy diet was characterized by a high consumption of whole-grain bread, raw vegetables and a low consumption of red meat and possibly butter, which is generally in line with previous findings. The paradoxical findings concerning the potential health benefit of coffee as well as cakes and cookies are interesting and should be investigated further.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control
  • Chronic Disease / epidemiology*
  • Coffee
  • Dairy Products
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / prevention & control
  • Diet
  • Diet, Fat-Restricted
  • Edible Grain
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meat
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Neoplasms
  • Nutrition Assessment
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Vegetables


  • Coffee