Could Home Meals Help Prevent Diabetes?

JULY 19, 2016
Meghan Ross, Senior Associate Editor
In addition to weight gain and poor diet quality, eating meals outside the home has been linked with a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes. 
Researcher Qi Sun, MD, assistant professor at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, told he was not surprised to see that study subjects who ate more meals at home tended to have a healthier diet and lower diabetes risk. 
Dr. Sun also thought that all health care providers, including pharmacists, should be involved in health education and promotion of healthy lifestyles that work toward diabetes prevention. 
He and his fellow researchers examined around 58,000 women and about 41,000 men in 2 cohorts of health care professionals. After around 2.1 million person-years of follow up, 9356 type 2 diabetes cases developed. 
The researchers found that patients who ate 5 to 7 midday meals prepared at home per week had a 9% lower risk of type 2 diabetes than those who ate 0 to 2 midday meals prepared at home. In the evening, patients who ate 5 to 7 meals at home per week had a 15% lower risk of diabetes than those who ate only 0 to 2 meals at home. 
Those who were more likely to eat meals prepared at home were older individuals and those with more children. Patients who were married, retired, and nonsmokers were also more likely to eat their meals at home.
Women who ate at home more tended to exercise more, but the opposite was true in men. Men who ate more meals at home tended to eat less fried food when they went out, but ate more fried food at home. 
Individuals who ate at home also tended to have higher intakes of total calories, fruits, vegetables, red meat, dairy, and whole grains, and they reported lower intakes of carbonated drinks and coffee.
In the 8 years of follow-up, adults who ate 11 to 14 meals at home per week had less weight gain than those who ate 0 to 6 meals at home. The researchers said they believed the link between more meals at home and lower risk of diabetes may have something to do with the decreased likelihood of gaining weight while dining out. 
The researchers concluded that these findings, alongside previous research, suggest that eating meals at home instead of eating fast food, in particular, could help curb obesity and diabetes.  
“From a public health perspective, actions are needed to encourage cooking meals at home and to improve diet quality of MPOH [meals prepared out of home] to facilitate diabetes prevention,” the researchers stated. 
More than one-third of Americans eat at fast-food restaurants, 28% eat at full-service restaurants, and 61% eat at other food establishments on a daily basis.  
The researchers cited that meals prepared outside the home are often high in fat and energy, but low in calcium, vitamin C, and iron.
Some of the limitations to this study were that it did not consider what kinds of food were eaten at home, and the cohorts were all health care professionals with around the same socioeconomic status.