Antioxidant-Rich Diet May Prevent Diabetes

Eating Foods High in Antioxidants, Especially Vitamin E, May Lower Risk

Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on February 20, 2004
From the WebMD Archives

Feb. 20, 2004 -- Eating a colorful diet full of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables may help prevent diabetes.

A new study shows that people whose diets had the highest levels vitamin E were 30% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who ate the least amounts of the antioxidant.

In addition, researchers found that people who ate a lot of carotenoids, a type of antioxidant found in colorful fruits and vegetables, also had a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

But the study showed one of the most popular antioxidants, vitamin C, seemed to offer no protection against the disease.

Antioxidants are found in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Previous research has suggested that eating a diet rich in these compounds can have a variety of healthy effects, such as preventing chronic diseases like diabetes, by fighting free radicals, unstable molecules that cause cell damage within the body.

Antioxidants Protect Against Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

In the study, which appears in the current issue of Diabetes Care, researchers looked at antioxidant content of the diets of more than 4,000 men and women between the ages of 40 and 69 who were free of diabetes at the start of the study. Specifically, they tracked the amount of vitamin E, vitamin C, carotenoids, and other forms or derivatives of vitamin E, such as tocopherols.

After 23 years of follow-up, the study showed that people who consumed more vitamin E and carotenoids had a lower risk of type 2 diabetes compared with people who consumed lower levels of the antioxidant, but no such effect was linked to vitamin C intake.

"This study adds weight to the hypothesis that antioxidant intake may reduce the risk of development of type 2 diabetes," write researcher Jukka Montonen of the National Public Health Institute in Helsinki, Finland, and colleagues. "Although these results, among those of the few prospective studies, seem promising, more large-scale prospective studies and intervention trials are needed to establish a firm conclusion."

The study also showed that the people who developed diabetes during the 23-year follow-up were older, more obese, and more likely to have high blood pressure.

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SOURCE: Montonen, J. Diabetes Care, February 2004; vol 27: pp 362-366.

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