Increasing intake of homemade meals may protect against the development of type 2 diabetes, according to a new study recently presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2015 in Orlando, FL.

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Eating homemade meals around twice a day may reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes, researchers find.

Study coauthor Geng Zong, PhD, a research fellow at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, MA, and colleagues suggest eating more meals prepared at home may reduce weight gain over time, which they say could explain their findings; excess weight is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes.

The negative health implications of regularly dining out in restaurants – particularly fast food restaurants – have been well documented.

Earlier this year, for example, Medical News Today reported on a study that found eating out leads to significantly higher calorie and salt intake, which may lead to weight gain and high blood pressure – risk factors for diabetes and heart disease.

But despite the associated health risks, it seems more of us are choosing to dine out rather than prepare home-cooked meals. Earlier this year, a report from the US Department of Commerce revealed that, for the first time in history, Americans are spending more money eating out than buying groceries.

“The trend for eating commercially prepared meals in restaurants or as take-out in the United States has increased significantly over the last 50 years,” notes Zong. “At the same time, type 2 diabetes rates have also increased.”

For their study, Zong and colleagues set out to investigate whether increasing consumption of homemade meals may protect against type 2 diabetes.

The team assessed the homemade meal intake and the type 2 diabetes development of almost 58,000 women who were part of the Nurses’ Health Study and more than 41,000 men who were part of the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study.

All participants were free of diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease at baseline and were followed for up to 36 years between 1986-2012.

The researchers found that individuals who consumed around two homemade lunches or evening meals each day – around 11-14 home-prepared meals weekly – were at 13% lower risk for developing type 2 diabetes than those who ate fewer than six homemade meals each week.

The team notes that they did not have enough data to include breakfast patterns in their analysis.

The researchers found that subjects who consumed more homemade meals experienced less weight gain over an average of 8 years, which they believe contributed to their reduced risk for type 2 diabetes.

The team is unable to pinpoint exactly how many homemade meals a person should eat each week based on their findings, but Zong suggests “more could be better.”

Medical News Today recently reported on a study that suggested drinking a glass of red wine a day may improve heart health and cholesterol for people with type 2 diabetes.