Ultra-processed Food Consumption and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes in the UK

Sarfaroj Khan 


January 18, 2021


  • Ultra-processed food (UPF) consumption was associated with a clinically important increased risk of type 2 diabetes (T2D).

  • The risk of incident T2D increased by 12% for every 10 percentage points increase in UPF consumption.

Why this matters

  • Findings highlight the urgent need for identifying and implementing effective public health actions to reduce UPF consumption in the UK and globally.

Study design

  • This prospective cohort study included 21,730 UK Biobank participants (age, 40-69 years) without diabetes at baseline and with valid 24-hour dietary recall and follow-up data available.

  • Funding: National Institute for Health Research School for Public Health Research.

Key results

  • The mean contribution of UPFs to the overall diet (in grams) was 22.1%.

  • 305 incident T2D cases were identified during a mean follow-up of 5.4 years.

  • A gradient of elevated risk of T2D with increasing levels of UPF intake was consistently observed in all unadjusted and adjusted regression models (Ptrend<.001).

  • Compared with the group in the lowest quartile of UPF intake, the risk of T2D was greater in the group with the highest quartile of UPF (adjusted HR [aHR], 1.44; 95% CI, 1.04-2.02; Ptrend<.028).

  • The risk of T2D significantly increased with every 10 percentage points increase in UPF consumption (aHR, 1.12; 95% CI, 1.04-1.20; P<.002).


  • Identification of incident T2D cases was based on self-reported and nurse interview data.


Levy RB, Rauber F, Chang K, Louzada MLDC, Monteiro CA, Millett C, Vamos EP. Ultra-processed food consumption and type 2 diabetes incidence: A prospective cohort study. Clin Nutr. 2020 Dec 28 [Epub ahead of print]. doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2020.12.018. PMID: 33388205 View full text

This clinical summary originally appeared on Univadis, part of the Medscape Professional Network.


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