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Can You Reduce Your Chance of Getting Diabetes?

You may be able to lower your chance of getting diabetes if you concentrate on eating lots of vegetables and fruits rather than processed foods.
Can You Reduce Your Chance of Getting Diabetes?
Doctor testing a patients glucose level after pricking his finger to draw a drop of blood and then using a digital glucometer.Senior diabetic woman is having a check up at home from a district nurse. She is checking his blood glucose levels.

Type 2 diabetes has been increasing at an alarming rate, not just in the US but also around the world. Most clinicians believe that obesity puts a person at serious risk of this condition. However, they don’t always know how to advise people to lower their chance of getting diabetes.

Dropping the Chance of Getting Diabetes:

Many scientists are convinced that diet can affect your chance of developing type 2 diabetes, but they need reliable information. Now, data from a large European epidemiological study can help. They indicate that people who eat more fruits and vegetables are less chance of getting diabetes (BMJ, July 8, 2020). This research was part of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC)-InterAct study.

To make this connection, the scientists analyzed blood levels of vitamin C and carotenoids for more than 22,000 people. Over the ten years of follow-up, those who had the highest blood levels of these nutrients were only half as likely to develop diabetes as those with the lowest blood levels.

Why Measure Blood Levels?

The advantage of using serum measurements is that they are less subject to bias than self-reports of dietary habits. Nonetheless, the investigators also collected detailed dietary questionnaires. They found good agreement between the two different sources of data. People with robust blood levels of vitamin C and carotenoids reported eating about a pound of fruits and vegetables daily, almost twice as much as those with the lowest levels. Root vegetables such as carrots and sweet potatoes contributed heavily to carotenoid levels, while citrus fruits and juices provided most vitamin C. Even after the scientists adjusted for body fat, people eating more produce had a lower chance of getting diabetes. Most of the time, people consuming the most vegetables also ate less meat and processed food and drank less milk and soda pop.

Learn More:

We discuss other ways to help ward off type 2 diabetes in our eGuide to Preventing & Treating Diabetes. You may also want to listen to our interview with Dr. Matthew Longjohn, Dr. Karen Lawson and Dr. Tieraona Low Dog. It is Show 1036: How to Prevent Diabetes by Changing Your Life.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
  • Zheng J-S et al, "Association of plasma biomarkers of fruit and vegetable intake with incident type 2 diabetes: EPIC-InterAct case-cohort study in eight European countries." BMJ, July 8, 2020. doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m2194
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