Diet Soda, Red Meat & Fried Food Boost Diabetes, Heart Disease Risk

Piece of steakTypical staples of a western diet such as diet soft drinks, red meats, and fried foods can lead to a condition called metabolic syndrome which can significantly increase your risk of developing diabetes and heart disease according to a recent study.

The study, funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and published in the American Heart Association’s Circulation journal, found that as little as two servings of red or processed meat a day and one diet soft drink increases an individuals risk of developing metabolic syndrome by more than a quarter.

Metabolic syndrome is the collective name for the presence of several health factors such as elevated blood pressure, low levels of “good” HDL cholesterol, high fasting blood glucose levels (a precursor for diabetes), elevated triglyceride levels, and a large waist circumference. A person that has three or more of these factors is considered to have metabolic syndrome.

The presence of metabolic syndrome in an individual significantly increases their likelihood of developing diabetes and/or heart disease.

In the study, those who ate on average 2 servings of meat a day were at a 26% increased risk of developing metabolic syndrome compared to those who averaged a quarter serving of meat a day. An average of 0.8 servings of fried food a day was enough to increase metabolic syndrome risk by 25% while regular consumption of coffee (2.5 servings/day) reduced risk by 7% compared to non-drinkers. Interestingly regular consumption of diet sodas increased metabolic syndrome risk by 34% while consumption of regular soft drinks had little impact on the risk of developing metabolic syndrome.

According to lead researcher Dr Lyn Steffen, Associate Professor, Division of Epidemiology and Community Health at the University of Minnesota: “after adjusting for demographic factors, smoking, physical activity and energy intake, consumption of a Western dietary pattern was adversely associated with metabolic syndrome.”

Dietitians recommend individuals should adjust their diet away from traditional western foods such as refined grains, processed meats, red meat, fried food, and full fat dairy products towards more healthy options such as fresh fruits, vegetables, fish and other seafood, skinless chicken, whole grains, and low fat dairy products.

Metabolic syndrome is more common in the elderly, and in those with a high BMI. Recent estimates by the CDC put the prevalence of metabolic syndrome in the USA at 34.4%. In the 60+ age group the prevalence was estimated at 51.5% and 56.1% in men and women respectively. With an ageing population and increasing rates of obesity, it is predicted that as many as half of all adults in the USA could have metabolic syndrome by 2020.