Type 2 Diabetes Risk Diminishes with Increased Antioxidant Consumption

A paper published by an Inserm (French National Institute of Health and Medical Research) research group in the journal Diabetologia, reveals a lower risk of type 2 diabetes among individuals consuming antioxidant-rich foods. This effect was observed to be contributed largely by vegetables, fruits, hot beverages like tea, and moderate intake of alcohol.

Previous and current research
Many previous studies have found an association between diet rich in vegetables and fruits and a reduced risk of cardiovascular conditions and certain cancers. The current research has revealed that such a diet is also linked with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

On the basis of previous studies, the research team suspected that the association was due to the presence of antioxidants like vitamins E and C, flavonoids or lycopenes. However, these studies had looked at isolated nutrients alone, and the total antioxidant capacity of the diet was not taken into consideration. Therefore, the researches sought to check whether the overall diet, as per its antioxidant capacity, is linked with reducing diabetes risk.

Method

They used an earlier study’s data which comprised of 64,223 French women in the age group between 40 and 65 years recruited in the year 1990, and observed from the 1993 to 2008. At the time of their inclusion in the study, none of them had cardiovascular disease or diabetes. And at the start of the study, each participant filled a dietary questionnaire which comprised of detailed information on over 200 different food items. During the follow-up, 1751 of the participants were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

They then used an Italian database for knowing the antioxidant capacity of different foods. They calculated the ‘total dietary antioxidant capacity’ score for each participant. Finally, they evaluated the link between this score and the risk of occurrence of diabetes during the period of follow-up.

Results

Diabetes risk lowered with increased antioxidant intake up to a level of 15 mmol/day, more than which the effect reached a plateau, as shown by the results. For obtaining this increased level of dietary antioxidants, foods including dark chocolate, walnuts, tea, blueberries, prunes, hazelnuts, strawberries, etc. should be consumed.

Those participants with the highest antioxidant scores had 27% lower diabetes risk than those with the lowest scores. The first author of the study, Francesca Romana Mancini, clarifies that this association continues after taking into consideration all the other leading diabetes risk factors such as education level, smoking, high cholesterol levels, hypertension, heredity, and BMI – the primary factor.

Vegetables, fruits, tea and moderate amounts of red wine were the foods and drinks that contributed the most to a high dietary antioxidant score. The researchers eliminated coffee from the evaluation, in spite of its high antioxidant capacity, as studies have already showed that the antioxidants in coffee are linked with lowered type 2 diabetes risk, and therefore did not want it to conceal the effects of antioxidants from other sources.

Conclusion

This research work adds to the existing knowledge of the effect of isolated nutrients and foods, and provides a more wholesome view of the association between food and type 2 diabetes. For, it has revealed that increased consumption of antioxidants can contribute to a lowered diabetes risk. This, as everyone knows, is due to the counterbalancing effect of these molecules on cell-damage causing free radicals. However, there should be more specific influences too. For instance, they may have an effect on the cells’ sensitivity to insulin. So, future research should be directed in this regard.

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