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Consuming More Meals Outside the Home May Increase Diabetes Risk

Previous research has found connections between weight gain and eating outside the home but few studies have looked at the association between type 2 diabetes and eating out. A recent Harvard-led study suggests that people who frequently cook and eat meals at home may be less likely than people who eat at restaurants to develop type 2 diabetes.


The researchers examined two studies focusing on health care professionals that included, in total, 58,051 women and 41,676 men. The women’s study occurred between 1986 and 2012, while the men’s study took place from 1986 to 2010. The researchers used self-reporting and a validated supplementary questionnaire to determine incidences of type 2 diabetes. During 2.1 million person-years of follow-up, 9,356 cases of type 2 diabetes were documented.


After adjusting for demographic, socioeconomic, and lifestyle factors, the researchers found that people who ate five to seven meals that were prepared at home per week had a 15% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than people who consumed 2 or fewer meals that were prepared at home per week. They also noticed a small but statistically significant trend of people who ate more midday meals prepared at home being less likely to develop type 2 diabetes.


Researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Harvard Medical School conducted the study. It was published on July 5, 2016, in PLOS Medicine.


The trend towards consuming more meals outside of the home is having an impact on the nutritional quality of the American diet. Poor diets contribute to obesity, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and osteoarthritis. This study adds to a growing body of evidence that home cooked meals are generally better than those consumed outside the home.

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