Even though much information is now publicly available, new research found that many Europeans are still unaware of how they can lower their risk of type 2 diabetes. Additionally, the researchers also found that health awareness in regards to type 2 diabetes varies considerably across Europe; there are large gaps between what Europeans should do to lower their risk and what they are actually doing.
The research, conducted by the Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee (ISIC), surveyed over 2,800 Europeans from Italy, Denmark, Spain, Germany, UK, Netherlands and Finland. Investigators wanted to identify myths and misconceptions in regards to the role of diet and lifestyle factors and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. They also explored the potential health benefits of coffee.
Their key findings included:
- 80 percent of those in Denmark, Finland and Italy and 70 percent in the UK believed sugary foods are a risk factor for diabetes, but a recent report suggested that the link is between sugary beverages and diabetes, not food.
- 70 to 80 percent of those in Finland, Germany, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands believed sugary drinks are associated with diabetes – in the UK this is below 70 percent.
- More than half of respondents agreed they would reduce their saturated fat intake, even if it was not specified as a risk factor – 10 percent of Finns said they would increase it.
- 55 percent of respondents said they would reduce their sodium intake to lower their risk of diabetes, even though it is not a specified risk factor.
Even though being overweight is a risk factor for diabetes, many respondents found body mass index (BMI) to be confusing. They found:
- 80 percent of those in Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and the UK, 90 percent of those in Denmark and Germany, 95 percent of those in Finland and 100 percent of young adults in Spain understood that being overweight is a key risk factor.
- 64 percent of respondents in Denmark, Germany, Finland and The Netherlands, and 56 percent of those from the UK saw a high BMI as a key risk factor.
On a positive note, lifestyle changes were found to be a clear factor for reducing risk.
- 87 percent of people polled believed that being overweight could increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Almost 60 percent of respondents across the seven countries were aware that physical inactivity could increase the risk.
The differences emerge when it comes to what Europeans know they should do versus what they actually do to lower their risk of type 2 diabetes.
- When asked which of the following lifestyle factors they believed could increase their risk of type 2 diabetes, 87 percent of those polled knew that being overweight increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, but only 60 percent would lose weight if diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
- 72 percent of respondents believed that having an unhealthy diet increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, but only 57 percent of Brits would improve their diet if diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
When ranked from most to least informed about lifestyle and dietary factors that increase or lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, the countries ranked as follows: Finland (most informed), Italy, Denmark, Germany, Spain, Netherlands, and the UK (least informed).
Professor Edith Feskens, Ph.D., from Wageningen University said, “Currently seven percent of the European population suffers from diabetes, which means we now have 60 million patients. A similar amount of people have prediabetes, and these numbers are expected to increase during the next decades. Lifestyle interventions focusing on healthy diet and physical activity are able to reduce diabetes risk, and these should be implemented widely.”