Thursday, 16 September 2010

Green Leafy Vegetables May Cut Diabetes Risks

Green Leafy Vegetables May Cut Diabetes Risks

More information on preventing diabetes. UK researchers from Leicester University have found that a diet full of green leafy vegetables such as spinach, cabbage and broccoli, rather than just a healthy diet in general, might considerably reduce diabetes risks.

In an analysis of six studies that included 220,000 adults (aged 30 to 74 years old) in the U.S., China and Finland, the team examined fruit and vegetable intake, finding only spinach and cabbage to have a significantly positive effect on diabetes risk.

In fact, a portion and a half of leafy greens a day was seen to cut type 2 diabetes risk by 14% according to the report that has just appeared in BMJ. Of course it may be that those who eat their leafy greens also have other lifestyle factors – healthier diet overall, more regular exercise, a better financial situation – that play a part in how whether they end up with type 2 diabetes.

Earlier work has found that fruit and veggies can help prevent cancer and heart disease, but the benefits to diabetes were unknown until this latest study.

This form of diabetes is caused by the body being unable to use insulin, a hormone that’s produced by the pancreas, to regulate the glucose that comes from food. When not controlled, the sugar levels go up and can do damage to the kidneys, nerves, heart and major arteries, even the eyes.

An estimated 180 million people the world over have diabetes, and though there is no cure, those who have the condition can keep themselves healthier by being more active and losing weight. Some people do need medication to control their blood sugar and insulin levels.

In an editorial that accompanied the BMJ study, Professor Jim Mann from the University of Otago in New Zealand, points out that the message of increasing overall fruit and veggie intake is important. Forget the “magic bullet” idea and focus instead on adding green leafy vegetables to your recommended five servings a day. Keep your focus on the big picture – an overall healthy, natural and balanced diet.

No one can say why green leafy veggies seem to have such a protective effect. One reason might be the high levels of antioxidants, like vitamin C. They also have high levels of magnesium and omega 3 fatty acids. All of these have benefits to the body.

The take home message from the research is that people should still aim for five servings of fruits and veggies each day according to study leader Melanie Davies, a professor of diabetic medicine at the University of Leicester. As recently as 2008 and 2009, the National Diet Nutrition Survey found that although fruit and vegetable intake has gone up over the past ten years, only a third of men and women are eating the right amount today. This needs to change.

Green leafy vegetables may in fact have particular benefits in terms of diabetes risks, though more work is needed. Eating healthy, and including these foods in your diet as much as possible until we know more, is your best bet.

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