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Nutritional determinants of worldwide diabetes: an econometric study of food markets and diabetes prevalence in 173 countries

  • Sanjay Basu (a1) (a2) (a3), David Stuckler (a3) (a4), Martin McKee (a3) and Gauden Galea (a5)
Abstract
AbstractObjective

Ageing and urbanization leading to sedentary lifestyles have been the major explanations proposed for a dramatic rise in diabetes worldwide and have been the variables used to predict future diabetes rates. However, a transition to Western diets has been suggested as an alternative driver. We sought to determine what socio-economic and dietary factors are the most significant population-level contributors to diabetes prevalence rates internationally.

Design

Multivariate regression models were used to study how market sizes of major food products (sugars, cereals, vegetable oils, meats, total joules) corresponded to diabetes prevalence, incorporating lagged and cumulative effects. The underlying social determinants of food market sizes and diabetes prevalence rates were also studied, including ageing, income, urbanization, overweight prevalence and imports of foodstuffs.

Setting

Data were obtained from 173 countries.

Subjects

Population-based survey recipients were the basis for diabetes prevalence and food market data.

Results

We found that increased income tends to increase overall food market size among low- and middle-income countries, but the level of food importation significantly shifts the content of markets such that a greater proportion of available joules is composed of sugar and related sweeteners. Sugar exposure statistically explained why urbanization and income have been correlated with diabetes rates.

Conclusions

Current diabetes projection methods may estimate future diabetes rates poorly if they fail to incorporate the impact of nutritional factors. Imported sugars deserve further investigation as a potential population-level driver of global diabetes.

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Corresponding author
*Corresponding author: Email sanjay.basu@ucsf.edu
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Public Health Nutrition
  • ISSN: 1368-9800
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