For decades now, rates of type 2 diabetes have been rising around the world at an alarming rate, and scientists are still trying to piece together the reasons for this increase. One likely contributing factor is changes in the way people eat, at least in some countries and regions. In the United States, studies have shown that most adults don’t consume enough vegetables or fruits — and that fruit intake appears to have dropped significantly over the last couple of decades. Since fruits and vegetables contain important nutrients, it’s plausible that their consumption could play a key role in metabolic health, including in blood glucose control.
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Total fruit intake linked to lower type 2 diabetes risk
For the latest study, researchers looked at how consumption of both whole fruits and fruit juice — measured separately — were linked to measures of glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity, as well as the risk of developing type 2 diabetes after a number of years. The participants were 7,675 people without diabetes, with an average age of 54. Participants completed a detailed food frequency questionnaire, and they had a number of blood tests and other measurements — including fasting glucose and a 2-hour glucose tolerance test. Total fruit intake — but not fruit juice consumption — was linked to lower insulin levels and less insulin resistance, as well as greater insulin sensitivity based on the glucose tolerance test. After five years, participants with a moderate fruit intake — those whose consumption placed them in the middle fifth of all participants — were 36% less likely to have developed diabetes than participants whose fruit intake placed them in the bottom fifth. After 12, years, there was no significant link between fruit intake and diabetes — which may reflect changes in eating patterns over such a long period of time.
The researchers concluded that consumption of whole fruits may play a crucial role in regulating blood glucose, and in the prevention of type 2 diabetes. More research is needed to better understand why fruit consumption appears to be important — such as whether the particular forms of sugar found in fruits help the body regulate glucose more effectively, or whether the fiber and wide range of nutrients found in whole fruit offer unique metabolic health benefits. And studies looking specifically at the effects of fruit consumption in people who already have diabetes could be useful to understand how, if at all, fruit consumption affects glucose metabolism differently in people who already have the condition.
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