According to French researchers, a diet heavy in animal products and other acidic foods can cause an acid load in the body. This higher acid level (called chronic metabolic acidosis) can cause reduced insulin sensitivity, which can lead to Type 2 diabetes.
"We have demonstrated for the first time in a large prospective study that dietary acid load was positively associated with Type 2 diabetes risk, independently of other known risk factors for diabetes," the researchers said, according to WebMD.
Contrarywise, a diet high in fruits and vegetables is believed to lead to a lower acid load in the body, the scientists said.
The study included more than 66,000 women in Europe who were followed for more than 14 years. During that time, about 1,400 of the participants were diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. The women filled out dietary questionnaires over that time period.
An acidic diet involves higher intake of fat and animal protein and a lower intake of carbohydrates. It also is linked to a higher intake of phosphorus, calcium and sodium, as well as lower magnesium. Specific foods constituting an acidic diet include more meat, fish, cheese, bread and soft drinks, while more alkaline diets include more dairy products, fruits, vegetables and coffee.
Those with diets highest in acidic foods were 56 percent more likely to develop diabetes than those with diets lowest in acidic foods, according to the study, which was recently published in our favorite medical journal, Diabetologia.
The study did not, however, prove that a highly acidic diet actually causes diabetes, it just showed an association, so you can come up with any creative explanations you want.
"A diet rich in animal protein may favor net acid intake, while most fruits and vegetables form alkaline precursors that neutralize the acidity," wrote Dr. Guy Fagherazzi and Dr. Francoise Clavel-Chapelon of the Center for Research in Epidemiology and Population Health at INSERM, in Paris. "Contrary to what is generally believed, most fruits -- such as peaches, apples, pears, bananas and even lemons and oranges -- actually reduce dietary acid load once the body has processed them."
(INSERM is the French equivalent of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, with a much seedier-sounding name.)
Fagherazzi and his colleagues said the findings could lead to the promotion of diets with a low acid load in order to prevent diabetes.
That's a low-meat, low-carb and low-sugar diet.