Over 64,000 women found food and drink rich in antioxidants protected them against diabetes
Scientists have found that a diet rich in antioxidants reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes which is associated with our lifestyle choices.
The new study of more than 64,000 middle-aged women found food and drink rich in antioxidants protected them against the disease, which is also linked to obesity.
Red grapes contain the antioxidant resveratrol in their skin – and have been linked to a host of health benefits.
Vegetables and tea are also rich in the health boosting ingredients and the study found the results held true even after taking into account all the main risk factors for type 2 diabetes.
These included smoking, education, high blood pressure and cholesterol, family history and BMI (body mass index) – the most important.
Dr Francesca Romana Mancini, of the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research in Paris said the study showed diet was crucial in tackling the condition.
The team of researchers concluded that the products which had the most benefit were fruit and vegetables, tea and red wine – the latter when consumed in moderate quantities.
Co-author Dr Guy Fagherazzi said: “This work complements our current knowledge of the effect of isolated foods and nutrients and provides a more comprehensive view of the relationship between food and type 2 diabetes.
“We have shown an increased intake of antioxidants can contribute to a reduction in diabetes risk.”
In the UK, around four million people now have diabetes, with 90 per cent suffering from Type 2.
Type 1 is an auto-immune disease which cannot currently be cured.
Type 2 can be avoided by making lifestyle changes such as taking more exercise and eating a healthy diet.
Drinking the odd glass of wine slashes the risk of developing diabetes by ‘more than a quarter’
We have shown an increased intake of antioxidants can contribute to a reduction in diabetes risk
An estimated 549,000 people have Type 2 diabetes but are not aware of it.
Last night, charities involved in research into the condition in the UK welcomed the new findings.
Pav Kalsi, Diabetes UK Senior Clinical Advisor, said: “This study adds to the evidence that a diet high in antioxidant-rich foods, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, is linked to a lower risk of Type 2 diabetes.
“We now need to find out more about the potential protective effects of these foods in everyone at risk of Type 2 diabetes.
“As well as fresh fruit and vegetables, there are other foods, such as wholegrains, nuts, seeds, legumes and fermented foods like yoghurt, that are protective against Type 2 diabetes.
“But there are also foods we should eat less of, such as red and processed meat and sugary drinks.”
She added: “Ultimately, the best way to reduce your risk of Type 2 diabetes is by maintaining a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise.”
Eating plenty of fruit and vegetables is also believed to stave off the condition
In the new study, researchers found that the risk of diabetes diminished with increased antioxidant consumption up to a level of 15 mmol/day – above which the effect reached a plateau.
This could be achieved through eating antioxidant-rich foods such as dark chocolate, walnuts, prunes, blueberries, strawberries or hazelnuts and drinking tea.
The study, published in the journal Diabetologia, found participants with the highest consumption of antioxidants were 27 per cent less likely to get the condition than those who ate the least.
Such veg and healthy foods combat illness triggering molecules called ‘free radicals’ that can cause cancer, heart disease and a host of other serious illnesses.
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But the new study is the first to show the dramatic success of antioxidant-rich foods against type 2 diabetes.
It was suspected there might be a link on the basis of previous research showing antioxidants like vitamins C and E as well as lycophenes or flavonoids reduced type 2 diabetes risk.
But these studies looked only at isolated nutrients rather than the total antioxidant intake.
Using data from a study of French women recruited in 1990 – when they were aged 40 to 65 – the researchers followed 64,223 of them from 1993 to 2008.
They were all free from diabetes and cardiovascular disease at the start at which time they completed a dietary questionnaire including detailed information on more than 200 different food items.
Based on this information – together with an Italian database providing the antioxidant capacity of different foods – the team calculated a score for ‘total dietary antioxidant capacity’ for each participant.
Scientists found that a diet rich in antioxidants reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes
The group then analysed the associations between this score and the risk of diabetes occurrence during the follow-up period.
Coffee was excluded from the analysis, despite its high antioxidant levels, because it has already been shown to be associated with reduced type 2 diabetes risk and could have masked the effects from other sources.
Epidemiologist Dr Mancini said it was now important to get to the bottom of the reason for antioxidants being a weapon against diabetes.
She added: “We know these molecules counterbalance the effect of free radicals, which are damaging to cells, but there are likely to be more specific actions in addition to this, for example an effect on the sensitivity of cells to insulin.
“This will need to be confirmed in future studies”