There are multiple factors that can contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes. Lifestyle habits such as dietary choices and physical activity are some of the most changeable factors. General diet recommendations for diabetes prevention include managing caloric intake, increasing fiber intake, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, and balancing carbohydrate intake. While all fruits and vegetables have nutrients that are important for overall health, some have unique properties that may be better for diabetes prevention than others.
Researchers from the United Kingdom reviewed several past studies to better understand the role of different vegetables and fruits in diabetes prevention. The study, published in British Medical Journal, found that leafy green vegetables may provide the greatest prevention benefit.
Researchers conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of six previous cohort studies that evaluated intake of fruits and/or vegetables and incidence of type 2 diabetes. There was a total of 223,512 participants in the trials. Three of the studies included separate information on fruits and vegetables, and four studies looked separately at leafy green vegetable intake. The study totals found that:
- Higher intake of leafy greens was associated with lower risk for type 2 diabetes.
- Higher intake of combinations of vegetables and fruits showed no decrease in risk for diabetes.
A systematic review increases the reliability of the results because it pulls in large amounts of data. The more participants in a study, the more reliable the results. However, the review can only be as reliable as the individual studies that are involved in the review. In this case, the studies were all observation studies, in which researchers do not control factors that may influence the outcome. The researchers simply observe what happens. These results show what relationship may exist between two factors but cannot establish cause and effect.
Leafy greens like arugula, broccoli, kale, and spinach have a double health punch. They carry the nutrients and vitamins associated with vegetables but also have good amounts of fiber. And now they have been associated with decreased risk of type 2 diabetes. Leafy greens can be eaten in salads or served as a side dish. If you are not a big fans of greens, try sneaking them into a favorite sandwich. Remember that a variety of fruits and vegetables will help your overall health and keep your diet delicious.
Carter P, Gray LJ, Troughton J, Khunti K, Davies MJ. Fruit and vegetable intake and incidence of type 2 diabetes mellitus: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ. 2010 Aug 18;341:c4229
Last reviewed October 2010 by Brian P. Randall, MD
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