10 Seemingly Harmless Habits that May Increase the Risk of Diabetes


Because man is generally a creature of habit1, we tend to go through an established routine. However, many are unaware of how their everyday ways and the diet choices they make can damage their health. 

Diabetes causes2 a host of adverse effects to the body, including muscle loss3 and injury to small blood vessels4. Lifestyle changes are a must to avoid major complications in the long run. 


10 Seemingly Harmless Habits That Increase the Risk of Diabetes5,6,7


Here are some of the seemingly “harmless” habits you must break to prevent diabetes.



1. Emotional eating

Perhaps some life changes have left you feeling stressed or down in the dumps. Being in a highly emotional state can lead to overeating unhealthy foods and, inevitably, weight gain, which can cause an imbalance in blood sugar levels.

If you are going through a rough patch, make sure that you take care of yourself. Seek help from family or friends or a mental healthcare professional if you’re having a hard time pulling yourself out of a dip. 



2. Sitting for long periods 

Sitting for extended periods watching TV or working in front of the computer may cause you to store more visceral fat and increase your waist circumference.8

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends9 that everyone should move at least every half hour. Studies have shown that doing so helps boost metabolism and insulin sensitivity. If you are mostly going to be desk-bound daily, make an effort to stand up and do light activities such as stretching or pacing around every 30 minutes. Setting up an alarm helps you stay accountable. 



3. Midnight snacking

Bad news: your late-night snacking after dinner can make your blood sugar spike and interfere with normal insulin production, making you vulnerable to type 2 diabetes. Cut this bad habit by having three balanced meals daily. This can suppress urges to binge during late nights. When you can’t resist the urge, don’t grab chips or cookies. Reach for healthier options like celery and hummus instead.



4. Guzzling sugary drinks

If you’re not suffering from low blood sugar, it’s best to steer clear from sugary drinks to maintain your glucose levels at a normal level.

Check the labels of your favorite beverages. A can of soda can have over 40 grams of carbohydrates10, while a single 12-ounce pack of fruit juice has about 10 teaspoons of sugar11. Your favorite frappe may also be laden with sugar. 

If you must have a flavored beverage, reach for unsweetened iced tea, or squeeze some lemon juice into some seltzer for a refreshing drink. 



5. Skipping breakfast

Not having breakfast may lead to overeating for the rest of your day. You may not feel the hunger pangs, but your brain will trick you into thinking that you need to snack more frequently or get bigger servings.

If you don’t have time for a full breakfast in the morning, you can whip up a quick fruit smoothie on the go. However, it’s also good to have high-fiber carbs like whole-grain toast and some healthy fat to make sure you start the day right. 



6. Eating processed foods

Consuming ultra-processed foods like canned food, deli meats, and cereals with refined sugar is linked to diabetes. A study12 reveals that every 10% increase in the amount of ultra-processed food consumed can be associated with up to 15% more risk of having diabetes.

Processed food is generally not as filling as whole foods, so you end up eating more calories. Eating more leads to weight gain that can cause insulin resistance. 

Scan the list of ingredients before grabbing items from the grocery. Seeing a long list of complicated-sounding components is a red flag. 



7. Sleeping late

Researchers13 have found that night owls are more likely to have diabetes, even if they get anywhere between seven to eight hours of shut-eye.

Sleeping late is often linked to unhealthy habits like midnight snacking or smoking to stay awake. These, in turn, are linked to lowered insulin sensitivity and poor blood sugar level regulation. Sleeping late also disrupts the metabolic process, which can have adverse effects on insulin production and utilization. 

To help you sleep earlier14, avoid exposure to artificial light from laptops, smartphones, and other devices. Working out too close to bedtime also makes it harder to doze off since it stimulates the body and raises body temperature.



8. Not consuming enough probiotics

Experts15 say that an increased level of bad bacteria in your gut can set you up for diabetes. This causes inflammation that may potentially lead to insulin resistance. To combat this, you’ll need to ingest probiotics, also known as good bacteria. Having enough probiotics in your gut aids digestion. Some probiotic-boosting foods16 you can eat include yogurt, select cheeses17, and sauerkraut.



9. Replacing carbs with protein and fat

A study18 showed that high-fat ketogenic diets are associated with escalated insulin resistance. On the other hand, consuming whole grains like oats was found to enhance insulin resistance. It’s best not to go for refined grains such as pasta or white bread and find healthier sources of carbohydrates instead. Strive to eat a well-balanced diet rich in nutritious whole foods like berries, beans, and chickpeas.  



10. Not drinking enough H20 

Researchers discovered19 that people who drink less water are at a greater risk for elevated blood sugar levels. The liver and kidney may not be getting enough fluids, and that increases blood sugar.

Consume less coffee, tea, sodas, and other caffeinated drinks as they act as diuretics that promote fluid loss in the body. You can use apps20to remind you to drink water throughout the day and increase your intake of water-rich foods.21


In with the Good, Out with the Bad


The best way to prevent and manage diabetes is to live a healthier lifestyle. Be mindful of your eating habits, how much physical activity you are getting, and the way you manage stress. 

Changes might be hard at first, especially if you’ve been so used to your old ways. But soon enough, you’ll find that the positive results you reap will keep you motivated to continue taking care of yourself. 

To find out if you’re at risk of cardiovascular diseases that may stem from diabetes and need to consult your doctor immediately, check out this Heart Disease Risk Checklist by For Your Sweetheart!


























Disclaimer: The information provided is for information purposes only and is not meant to be substituted for the advice given by a registered medical practitioner. This information should not be used for diagnosing health problems or for self-medication. Boehringer Ingelheim shall not be responsible for any damages or losses arising out of access to or use of information provided.


Last medically reviewed on May 19, 2021