People who consume foods and drinks that are rich in antioxidants have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to new research published in Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes.
The foods and drinks that contributed the most to a high dietary antioxidant score were fruits and vegetables, tea and red wine (when consumed in moderate quantities).
A diet rich in fruit and vegetables has previously been associated with a lower risk of certain cancers and cardiovascular conditions. The new research has now shown that such a diet is similarly associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.
Previous studies showed that certain antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E were associated with a reduction in type 2 diabetes risk. However, these studies looked only at isolated nutrients, not at the total antioxidant capacity of the diet. The researchers therefore wanted to verify whether overall diet, according to its antioxidant capacity, is associated with diabetes risk.
Using data from 64,223 women gathered between 1993 and 2008, all of whom were free from diabetes and cardiovascular disease at the time of inclusion in the study, the researchers calculated a score for ‘total dietary antioxidant capacity’ for each participant. The group then analysed the associations between this score and the risk of diabetes occurrence during the follow-up period.
The results show that diabetes risk diminished with increased antioxidant consumption up to a level of 15 mmol/day, above which the effect reached a plateau.
Increasing dietary antioxidants to this level could be achieved through eating antioxidant-rich foods such as dark chocolate, tea, walnuts, prunes, blueberries, strawberries or hazelnuts.
Women with the highest antioxidant scores had a reduction in diabetes risk of 27 per cent compared with those with the lowest scores.
The study’s first author, Francesca Mancini, said: ’This link persists after taking into account all the other principal diabetes risk factors: smoking, education level, hypertension, high cholesterol levels, family history of diabetes and, above all, BMI, the most important factor’