Taking public transport to work, eating more homemade meals can reduce type 2 diabetes risk, studies suggest

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Two separate studies investigating risk factors for type 2 diabetes find two things can limit this risk: eating more home-cooked meals and avoiding the use of your car to get to work.

The first study was conducted by Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, United States. Researchers collected data of 58,000 women and 41,000 men – none of whom had diabetes, heart disease or cancer prior to the study.

Those who ate roughly 11 to 14 homemade lunches or dinners per week had a 13 per cent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. This was compared to participants who ate less than six homemade lunches or dinners per week. There was not enough research to include breakfast patterns in the researchers’ analysis.

For each lunch prepared at home in a week, the risk of type 2 dropped by two per cent. For each dinner prepared at home in a week, the risk dropped by four per cent.

The research team added that eating more homemade meals can combat obesity, which is known to be a key risk factor in the development of type 2 diabetes.

Study author Geng Zong, research fellow at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said: “We need more studies to demonstrate whether preparing meals at home may prevent risk of diabetes and obesity. Keeping a balance between food intake and physical activity remains essential for maintaining body weight and health.”

“Most important of all, even if meals prepared at home may have better diet quality, it does not mean people can eat without limits in amounts,” Zong added.

Public transportation

In the second study, Japanese researchers from the Moriguchi City Health Examination Centre, Osaka, found that public transportation users were 34 per cent less likely to have type 2 diabetes compared to drivers.

Moreover, train and bus users were 44 per cent less likely to be overweight and 27 per cent less likely to have high blood pressure. Being overweight and having high blood pressure are risk factors for type 2 diabetes. For people with type 2 diabetes, controlling these risk factors can reduce the risk of developing diabetes-related complications.

This data was based on nearly 6,000 adults who filled in a questionnaire on physical activity and how they got to work. Additionally, public transport users also had lower rates of diabetes, high blood pressure and overweight when compared to participants who cycled to work.

The researchers suggested these findings could be due to public transport users having to walk farther to get to and from different transport facilities.

Lead study author Dr. Hisako Tsuji, Moriguchi City Health Examination Centre, said: “People should consider taking public transportation instead of a car, as a part of daily, regular exercise. It may be useful for healthcare providers to ask patients about how they commute.”

Both studies were presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2014.