People Who Make Meals at Home Have Lower Risk of Diabetes, Weight Gain

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Eating out has consequences beyond your wallet, according to research from Harvard.

There’s nothing like a home-cooked meal—for cutting your risk of developing diabetes and gaining weight, according to a Harvard researcher.

Geng Zong, PhD, presented results Sunday at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions, being held in Orlando, Florida, that people who at 2 homemade lunches or dinners a day—or about 11-14 meals a week—had a 13% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, compared with people who ate fewer than 6 homemade meals a week. They were also less likely to gain weight over the initial 8 years of follow-up. (Researchers were only able to measure lunch and dinner; they did not have enough information on breakfast).

Zong said the rise in diabetes tracks the trend of Americans eating out more often—which has been attributed to less predictable schedules and more households where both the husband and wife work outside the home.

In a press conference early Sunday, Zong presented an analysis of data from 57,994 women in the Nurses’ Health Study and 41,679 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. The study subjects did not have diabetes, cardiovascular disease or cancer at baseline.


Zong said there were some takeaways from the study: it appears that one of the consequences of eating at home is drinking fewer sugar sweetened beverages, and that alone helps account for less weight gain.

And, he advised, “If you have to eat out, try not to choose fast food.”

Results. Those with more meals prepared at home had higher intakes of whole grains, were more likely to consume low-fat dairy products, fruits and vegetables and less likely to drink sugar-sweetened beverages.

Compared with those eating 0-6 meals from home each week, women eating 11-14 meals from home per week had 0.45±0.08kg less weight gain over 8 years, while men had 0.41±0.07 kg less weight gain (P<0.001) for the same period.

During 2.3 million person-years of follow-up, 8959 cases of type 2 diabetes were identified in the 2 study cohorts. After adjusting for demographic and lifestyle factors, the pooled hazard ratio (95% confidential interval) of T2D were 0.96 (0.90, 1.01) for participants with 7-8 meals from home, 0.96 (0.87, 1.06) for those with 9-10 meals from home, and 0.88 (0.83, 0.94) for those with 11-14 meals from home per week.

The researchers wrote, “Each additional meal from home for lunch was associated with 2% lower risk of T2D, whereas the corresponding value was 4% for dinner (P<0.001 for both).”


Zong G, Eisenberg DM, Hu FB, Sun Q. Frequent consumption of meals prepared at home and risk of type 2 diabetes among American men and women. Presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions; Orlando, Florida; November 8, 2015; abstract 17285.