Millions of people suffer from type 2 diabetes. In fact, this is the leading form of disability on a global scale. So, how do you get to avoid developing this somewhat debilitating disease? Scientists urge people to eat a balanced diet and to stay physically active because, as they say, prevention is still far better than the cure.
Present studies and observations from researchers and health experts show that regularly consuming whole fruits, but not fruit juice, may reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In this newest study, researchers found a link between eating moderate to high amounts of fruit on a regular basis and the lower risk of developing the disease.
The researchers who performed the study published their findings in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. It says that eating more whole fruits was associated with healthy levels of glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity. These two factors could, in fact, be predecessors to type 2 diabetes.
What is Type 2 Diabetes?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are about 1 in 10 people in the United States alone who suffer from diabetes, and 90 to 95 percent of those sufferers have type 2 diabetes.
If someone suffers from type 2 diabetes, the cells in their body experience difficulty taking up glucose that’s available in the blood. The experts call this insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone that’s produced in the pancreas and this helps aid and facilitate the transfer of blood sugar to the cells themselves. As this happens, the pancreas continue to create insulin. If it produces enough of it, then the blood sugar should remain stable and healthy.
While the pancreas continue to work, it’s a rather different story for a diabetic. That’s because once the pancreas stops producing sufficient amounts of insulin to help the aforementioned cells overcome their inability to take up the needed glucose, the blood sugar rises to risky levels. As an effect, someone who has high blood sugar levels over a prolonged period of time can experience a variety of health issues such as vision loss, heart disease, and kidney disease.
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, people can actually prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes through the following methods:
- Keeping their weight on a healthy level
- Being more physically active
- Following a balanced diet
Dr. Frank B. Hu from the Department of Epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, MA, and his co-authors talked about their current research on nutrition and diet, especially when it comes to preventing diabetes. The summary is published in The Lancet. It said that “healthful dietary patterns for diabetes prevention and management were typically rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables, nuts, [and] legumes, moderate in alcohol consumption, and lower in refined grains, red/processed meats, and sugar-sweetened beverages.”
Over 7,000 Initial Participants in the Study
In the latest study discussed, the researchers wanted to specifically examine the role of fruits when it comes to preventing type 2 diabetes. In order to make this possible, they drew on data from the Australian Diabetes, Obesity, and Lifestyle Study. The study recruited a total of 11,247 people between 1999 to 2000. Then, follow-up surveys were conducted in 2004 to 2005 and 2011 to 2012.
For the present study, the researchers did not include those who did not complete an initial food frequency questionnaire, had energy intakes that were unlikely, suffered from diabetes, or were pregnant. Hence, they had to shave off the participants down to 7,675. The researchers then kept close tabs on how much fruit they consumed, which particular fruits they had, and the amount of much fruit juice they drank. They then followed up on these participants to see if they developed type 2 diabetes between the initial and the final follow-ups. They also considered the biological markers that are associated with the risk of developing diabetes.
The Benefits of Whole Fruit
During the initial research and the final follow-up, the researchers found a link between high levels of fruit intake and lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. This was indicated that the 5-year follow-up survey they conducted. Moreover, they also found a relationship between higher fruit consumption and healthier measures of insulin sensitivity and glucose intolerance.
According to the study’s corresponding author, Dr. Nicola Bondonno of Edith Cowan University’s Institute for Nutrition Research in Perth, Australia, she said “We found [that] people who consumed around 2 servings of fruit per day had a 36% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes over the next 5 years than those who consumed less than half a serving of fruit per day.” She further explained the findings by saying, “We did not see the same patterns for fruit juice. These findings indicate that a healthy diet and lifestyle, which includes the consumption of whole fruits, is a great strategy to lower your diabetes risk.”
The Causation of the Study
While the researchers found astounding results, they also pointed out the fact that their results only demonstrate an association between whole fruit consumption and reduced diabetes risk. Hence, further research needs to be made in order for them to truly identify a causal relationship.
Furthermore, the researchers also offered a number of possible reasons that may account for the association between health and fruit consumption. They took note that “most fruits typically have a low glycemic load, whilst being rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, all of which may play a contributory role.”
Dr. Bondonno and her colleagues emphasize the fact that researchers have established the close association between low fiber levels in particular with type 2 diabetes. This may also be why they didn’t find any association between fruit juice intake and reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. This, they believe, is because almost all the fiber that’s found in fruits will disappear when fruit is processed and juice is extracted.