FoodFacts.com has always thought highly of the old adage, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” It works well with our mission of educating consumers about the benefits of healthy eating. There are foods that help our bodies remain strong and healthy, enabling us to avoid conditions that unhealthy foods may, in fact, contribute to. So we always enjoy reading new information that relates the consumption of fresh, whole foods to lowered risk of specific diseases.
Today we read that eating more whole fruits, particularly blueberries, grapes, and apples, was significantly associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, according to a new study led by Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers. Greater consumption of fruit juices was associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes. The study is the first to look at the effects of individual fruits on diabetes risk.
“While fruits are recommended as a measure for diabetes prevention, previous studies have found mixed results for total fruit consumption. Our findings provide novel evidence suggesting that certain fruits may be especially beneficial for lowering diabetes risk,” said senior author Qi Sun, assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition at HSPH and assistant professor at the Channing Division of Network Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
The researchers examined data gathered between 1984 and 2008 from 187,382 participants in three long-running studies (Nurses’ Health Study, Nurses’ Health Study II, and Health Professionals Follow-up Study). Participants who reported a diagnosis of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or cancer at enrollment were excluded. Results showed that 12,198 participants (6.5%) developed diabetes during the study period.
The researchers looked at overall fruit consumption, as well as consumption of individual fruits: grapes or raisins; peaches, plums, or apricots; prunes; bananas; cantaloupe; apples or pears; oranges; grapefruit; strawberries; and blueberries. They also looked at consumption of apple, orange, grapefruit, and “other” fruit juices.
People who ate at least two servings each week of certain whole fruits — particularly blueberries, grapes, and apples — reduced their risk for type 2 diabetes by as much as 23% in comparison to those who ate less than one serving per month. Conversely, those who consumed one or more servings of fruit juice each day increased their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by as much as 21%. The researchers found that swapping three servings of juice per week for whole fruits would result in a 7% reduction in diabetes risk.
The researchers theorize that the beneficial effects of certain individual fruits could be the result of a particular component. Previous studies have linked anthocyanins found in berries and grapes to lowered heart attack risk, for example. But more research is necessary to determine which components in the more beneficial fruits influence diabetes risk.
FoodFacts.com understands that Type 2 diabetes is a condition affecting millions worldwide. It can result in serious health problems, and even death for many in our population. The concept that eating blueberries, grapes and apples could markedly reduce the risk of diabetes is yet another reason for us all to add these whole fruits to our daily diets. And spreading the word about this possibility will help increase the nutritional awareness of those in our networks, and, hopefully in turn, those in theirs.