Dietary habits contribute to define the risk of type 2 diabetes in humans

Clin Nutr ESPEN. 2019 Dec;34:8-17. doi: 10.1016/j.clnesp.2019.08.002. Epub 2019 Aug 30.


Background and aims: Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is a frequent disorder largely preventable. The aim of this review was to summarize information on the association between dietary habits and the risk of developing T2D.

Methods: We conducted a comprehensive literature search using the PubMed database from its inception to June, 2019. Articles were restricted to those written in English and concerning human subjects. Relevant manuscripts found in the list of references of the retrieved articles were also used in preparation for the review.

Results: Animal protein consumption increases the risk of T2D independently of body mass index. Intake of both unprocessed meat and processed meat is strongly and consistently associated with increased risk of developing T2D. In contrast, consumption of high-quality vegetable foods prevents the disease. High-quality plant foods include whole grains, nuts, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. Among less healthy plant-based foods are fruit juices, sweetened beverages, refined grains, potatoes, sweets, and desserts. Carbohydrate-restricted diets that encourage consumption of animal products promote T2D. Low intake of animal products is linked to high educational level so that well-informed individuals tend to consume diets with elevated content of vegetable food. According to the American Dietetic Association, "appropriately planned vegetarian diets including vegan diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases".

Conclusions: restricting animal products while increasing healthy plant-based foods intake facilitates T2D prevention. To neutralize worldwide the burden of T2D and its devastating complications, animal products consumption should be limited or discontinued.

Keywords: Animal fat; Animal protein; Diabetes; Insulin resistance; Insulin sensitivity; Vegan diet; Vegetable fat; Vegetable protein; Vegetarian diet.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animal Proteins, Dietary
  • Animals
  • Body Mass Index
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / etiology*
  • Diet*
  • Diet, Healthy
  • Diet, Vegan
  • Diet, Vegetarian
  • Dietetics
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Risk Factors


  • Animal Proteins, Dietary