Type 2 diabetes has become an epidemic in many developed countries.
In recent generations, our diets have consisted of a lot of processed carbohydrates such as heavily processed grains and sugars, and processed animal products.
This rise in type 2 diabetes is often associated with diet and lifestyle.
While some of us may have a family history of insulin resistance and be at higher risk for developing diabetes, how we eat and exercise plays a big role in our overall risk.
A recent Harvard study found having two slices of buttered toast a day could double the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
But is it the bread, the butter, or both?
How Can Consuming Buttered Toast Increase The Risk Of Diabetes?
We’ve seen a connection between processed carbohydrates and an increased risk of diabetes for some time now.
This study looked at the benefits of a Mediterranean diet and found associated risks with some aspects of the standard American diet (sometime referred to as SAD).
Researchers followed 3,349 people for five years. They found people who consumed just 12 grams (0.42 ounces) of butter were twice as likely to develop diabetes within five years.
After following participants for four and a half years, 266 subjects had diabetes. Developing diabetes was twice as likely among participants consuming higher amounts of saturated fatty acids and animal fat.
Based on this study, there was a risk associated with an increase in saturated fatty acids equivalent to the amount of butter used on two pieces of toast.
A very important thing to keep in mind, however, is many Americans consume overly processed butters containing processed oils and additives.
If we consider how butter is typically consumed, it’s often served with breads, tossed in pasta and paired with other carbohydrates. Breads and pastas spike blood sugar levels, and should be avoided if you have gestational diabetes.
Does Butter Cause Type 2 Diabetes?
This study found a correlation between consuming higher amounts of saturated fat and animal fat. It doesn’t have enough evidence to say it’s a cause of diabetes, but rather that there’s an association between the two.
A correlation is not the same as a cause and effect. It simply means we see certain behaviours, foods, health histories, etc. more often among those with type 2 diabetes.
If someone has type 2 diabetes and is consuming higher amounts of saturated fat, it’s possible it’s how and with what they’re consuming the saturated fats that is contributing to blood sugar issues.
It’s likely that completely natural butter, free of added processed oils and preservatives, served with whole foods may not be linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
This study doesn’t have enough evidence to show all natural butter (the label should say it contains just cream and milk) served without processed carbohydrates will increase one’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Why Does This Study Matter?
Type 2 diabetes has become an epidemic in developed countries making it a public health crisis. It impacts lives, utilises medical resources, and the complications associated with it are costly.
In the case of type 2 diabetes, an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure. And for those that have already developed type 2 diabetes, using preventative methods to stabilise blood sugar is key to preventing complications.
This study not only found a correlation between certain foods and an increased risk in diabetes, it demonstrated the benefits of other foods in preventing or managing type 2 diabetes.
Even if an all natural butter doesn’t increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, the study still demonstrates the impact diet has on health and wellness.
If the nutrition and medical communities can provide the public with guidelines and education about ways to prevent and manage type 2 diabetes, individuals will benefit as well as society as a whole.
What Is The Mediterranean Diet And How Can It Help?
A standard American diet contains processed carbohydrates, high levels of real and artificial sweeteners, highly processed fats, and few whole foods. We’re now seeing the effects of the SAD on our overall health.
The Mediterranean diet consists of olive oils, whole grains, fruits, nuts, seeds, seafood, while being lower in red meats and other animal products.
The Mediterranean diet isn’t like a fad diet. It’s a way of eating that’s demonstrated in some studies as a healthy way of eating long-term.
This diet has been associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes as well as other healthy conditions. Overall, this diet consists of whole foods. Foods closest to their natural state are healthiest for us. When grains are consumed, they tend to be less processed than the fluffy white bread found packaged in our grocery stores.
Is This Information Important For Pregnant Women?
If you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant, your diet and lifestyle play a big role in your risk of developing gestational diabetes.
While gestational diabetes (GD) occurs in part due to the placenta impacting our hormones and blood sugar levels, risk factors for developing GD are very similar to the risk factors associated with type 2 diabetes.
A diet focusing on whole foods, healthy fats (e.g. olive oil, avocado, low mercury fish, nuts, natural butter with no added oils etc.), low in processed fats, such as the Mediterranean diet, can help you get adequate nutrition during pregnancy while reducing your risk of developing GD.
In some cases, women eating healthy and staying active will still develop GD due to hormonal changes. Sticking to a Mediterranean style diet, along with exercising, can help them manage blood sugar and reduce risks associated with GD.