Home-made meals lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, it was recently revealed by experts at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.
The findings were presented on Sunday, October 8, at the annual meeting of the American Heart’s Association, held in Orlando, Florida.
Researchers analyzed data pertaining to 57,994 women who had been part of the Nurses’ Health Studies, and 41,679 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. At the beginning of the trials, none of the subjects had suffered from cardiovascular disease, diabetes or cancer.
It was determined that those who had between 11 and 14 home-cooked meals faced a 13% lower likelihood of being affected by type 2 diabetes, in contrast with those who had less than 6 such meals.
For every lunch cooked at home, the risk of developing this metabolic disorder decreased by 2%, and for every dinner the probability was also slashed by another 4%.
Experts also discovered that those who preferred to consume food cooked by themselves or by family members were slimmer than those who preferred to eat out, and experienced lower weight gain.
One possible explanation is the fact that those who ate homemade meals had a diminished intake of sugar-sweetened beverages.
They also ate larger quantities of whole grains, fruit, vegetables and low-fat dairy products. Indeed, another study has shown that those who prefer homemade food are less likely to consume products rich in sugar and fat.
The results haven’t been deemed surprising by experts such as Dr. Joel Zonszein, director of the Clinical Diabetes Center, at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.
As he explained, frequent visits to fast food establishments or other local eateries have been linked with a heightened probability of developing type 2 diabetes, or becoming obese. Those who eat out tend to have lower quality diets, based on processed foods, which lead to insulin resistance, and heightened triglyceride levels.
The explanation lies not only in the much more health-conscious food consumed while at home, where the cook knows the full list of ingredients and no preservatives or other chemicals are added.
An equally important factor is the environment, which is much less stressful: eating food at a slower pace, while relaxing in the presence of one’s family, is a much healthier than having it in a hurry, in crowded, impersonal restaurants.
Researchers now say that follow-up studies need to be carried out, in order to establish with greater certainty a link between home preparation of meals, and lowered prevalence of obesity and diabetes.
Such information is especially important nowadays, considering that average time dedicated to cooking has diminished by a third, while energy intake derived from foods consumed outside the house has increased from under 10% in the mid 1960’s, to more than 30% in 2005-2008.
During that same time span, the incidence of type 2 diabetes has been growing significantly, and now almost 30 million Americans (9% of the total population) suffer from this condition.
Experts also point out the fact that while these findings suggest home-cooked lunches or dinners are preferable, they shouldn’t be used as a pretext to increase calorie intake.
“Even if meals prepared at home may have better diet quality, it does not mean people can eat without limits in amounts”, explained Geng Zong, study lead author, and research fellow at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.
As the scientist emphasized, it’s still highly advisable to keep food consumption at moderate levels, as well as to practice physical exercise on a regular basis.
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