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Eating Fruit with Flavonoids May Lower Diabetes Risk

If you’re looking for a natural way avoid type 2 diabetes, you might want to add more foods containing flavonoids to your diet.  New research shows that eating more blueberries and apples – both fruits rich in flavonoids – may help lower your risk of diabetes.

Flavonoids are chemicals believed to have health benefits that are found in certain plants.  These phytochemicals are found in larger concentrations in the body and bright-colored skins of certain fruits and vegetables, as well as in the cocoa bean used to make dark chocolate.  Flavonoids provide protection to plants from toxins in the environment, and also help repair damage to the plant caused by toxins.  When we eat foods rich in flavonoids, we gain some of this protective benefit, which is commonly referred to as an antioxidant.

Antioxidants are natural substances that can help the body fight off damage to cells caused by free radicals.  Free radicals occur naturally in the body when food is broken down for use or is stored. Free radicals are also produced by contact with certain chemicals such as tobacco smoke, contaminants in the environment, or radiation. Free radicals are unstable particles that can cause damage to cell membranes and the DNA inside the cell.

Previous studies linked  flavonoids with a variety of potential health benefits including reduced risk of heart disease and cancer.  A recent study at the Harvard School of Public Health suggests flavonoids may also help reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.  Diabetes is the condition that results when the body does not produce enough insulin or is not able to effectively use insulin to regulate sugar levels in the blood.  Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes, which affects millions of people in the United States.

In the study, researchers used questionnaires to track the diets of approximately 200,000 men and women for up to 24 years.  None of the participants had diabetes when the project began. About 12,600 people were diagnosed with diabetes during the course of the study.   The results showed that people who ate blueberries two or more times a week had a 23 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared with participants who ate no blueberries.   People who ate at least five apples a week also had a 23 percent lower risk than those who ate no apples.

An Pan, a research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health, said the study showed a relationship between eating apples and blueberries and having a lower risk of the disease, but did not prove that these fruits actually prevent diabetes.

Denise DeWitt is a freelance writer for EmpowHER.com.

Sources:

Reuters. Blueberries and apples tied to lower diabetes risk. Aparna Narayanan. Web. March 18, 2012.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/16/us-diabetes-idUSBRE82F1A920120316

Cleveland Clinic. Heart-Health Benefits of Chocolate Unveiled. Web.  March 18, 2012.

http://my.clevelandclinic.org/heart/prevention/nutrition/chocolate.aspx

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Antioxidant Supplements for Health: An Introduction. Web. March 18, 2012.

http://nccam.nih.gov/health/antioxidants/introduction.htm

American Diabetes Association. Diabetes Basics: Type 2.  Web. March 18, 2012.

http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/type-2/?loc=DropDownDB-type2

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