"High intake of carbohydrates has been suggested to be associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes," said study lead author Kim Braun from Harvard University in the US.
For the findings, the research team looked at whether this effect is different for high-quality carbohydrates and low-quality carbohydrates, which include refined grains, sugary foods and potatoes.
In the study, the research team analysed data from three studies that followed health professionals in the US over time.
These included 69,949 women from the Nurses' Health Study, 90,239 women from the Nurses' Health Study 2 and 40,539 men from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study.
Collectively, the studies represented over four million years of follow-up, during which almost 12,000 cases of type 2 diabetes cases were documented.
The researchers observed a lower risk of type 2 diabetes when high-quality carbohydrates replaced calories from saturated fatty acids, monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, animal protein and vegetable protein.
They also found that replacing low-quality carbohydrates with saturated fats, but not with other nutrients, was associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
"These results highlight the importance of distinguishing between carbohydrates from high- and low- quality sources when examining diabetes risk," said Braun.
"Conducting similar studies in people with various socio-economic backgrounds, ethnicities and age will provide insight into how applicable these findings are for other groups," Braun added.
The study was scheduled to be presented at 'NUTRITION 2020 LIVE ONLINE', a virtual conference hosted by the American Society for Nutrition (ASN) this week.