An Apple a Day Could Keep Diabetes Away

Medical science has known for a long time that diet plays an important part in our likelihood of getting type 2 diabetes.  The healthier the habits of a person, the less risk they run of developing this disease, which is associated with overweight, poor eating habits and low physical activity.  Now a new study has pointed up the benefits of eating fruit, which could help to lower the risk of diabetes by as much as 23%.

The study focused on blueberries, known as a super-food because of their high levels of antioxidants and nutrients, and apples.  Apples have always been seen as healthy because of their high fiber and nutrient content and low calorie value, with an average apple being only around 45-50 calories.  Because they are juicy, they also contribute to hydration of the body without any of the health disadvantages of drinking too much tea and coffee.

People who already have diabetes are often advised to go easy on fruit, because it contains large quantities of fructose, which can raise blood sugar levels.  In addition, fructose itself has been linked to an increased risk of diabetes, but studies have generally mentioned vine fruits and dried fruits rather than berries and apples.

The new study was carried out at the Harvard School of Public Health, where researchers looked into data from 200,000 adult patients collected over up to 24 years.  The participants were asked to fill in questionnaires about their health and lifestyle habits at regular intervals throughout the term of the study.

Study leader Dr An Pan said the findings linked eating higher quantities of fruit with a reduced risk of diabetes.  The patients who ate the most blueberries and the patients who ate at least five apples a week both had a 23% reduced risk of diabetes compared to people who ate none of these fruits.

Dr Pan said the study does not prove fruit prevents diabetes; rather that it seems to be associated with a decreased risk.  Flavonoids and other antioxidants have been found to be important in keeping diabetes at bay as part of a healthy diet that includes fresh vegetables and fruit with plenty of fiber.

While the results are interesting they may only indicate that people with healthy eating habits generally are less at risk of diabetes, which is hardly news.  People with healthier lifestyles would tend to eat more fruit, rather than junk food and over processed supermarket meals.  And people who are aware of the benefits of a healthier diet would be more likely to select the so-called “super-foods” for regular consumption.  Super-foods, which include many berries, are valued for their nutrient-dense nature, have been linked to many health benefits, and lowered risk of many diseases, including heart disease and cancers.

While apples are not generally considered super-foods, they do contain many minerals and vitamins, along with a large quantity of dietary fiber and water, and are filling and sweet, which can reduce the craving for unhealthier sweets and cakes.  The old adage “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” may have grounding in fact, observed by our ancestors.  Regular consumption of fruit is certainly a healthy habit to acquire.

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