Chocolate, Tea and Berries: How to Fight Diabetes With Food

Diabetics have to watch what they eat, but compounds in these foods may lower the risk for their disease

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In new research from scientists at the University of East Anglia (UEA) and King’s College London, compounds known as anthocyanins, belonging to the flavonoid family were linked to lower insulin resistance and better blood sugar control among people with diabetes. These agents, which are found in fruits and vegetables, contain antioxidants that can protect cells from damage by oxygen and other molecular processes.

The researchers studied 2,000 women who answered questions about their diet so that the investigators could estimate their total flavonoid intake. The scientists also took blood samples from the participants so they could mark how well they controlled blood sugar and their levels of inflammation. They measured insulin resistance, which is a precursor to type 2 diabetes, and chronic inflammation, which is associated with a higher risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity.

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While the antioxidant properties and flavonoids have been linked to benefits in controlling blood glucose and inflammation, this study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, is the largest yet to reveal that eating generous amounts of these dietary compounds are associated with even lower insulin resistance and better blood glucose regulation. “We found that those who consumed plenty of anthocyanins and flavones had lower insulin resistance. High insulin resistance is associated with type 2 diabetes, so what we are seeing is that people who eat foods rich in these two compounds – such as berries, herbs, red grapes, wine, tea and chocolate – are less likely to develop the disease, study author Aedin Cassidy a professor at UEA, explained in a statement.

How much is enough to lower the risk of diabetes? The researchers aren’t sure yet, but additional studies parsing how these compounds affect the body’s ability to break down glucose should provide more answers. And reveal whether for some people, it may even be possible to fight diabetes with food.