WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
New research from China found that eating fruit not only helps to prevent diabetes, but also shows that fruit helps to lessen diabetes-related complications in those already diagnosed with diabetes. Diabetics and non-diabetics alike are encouraged to consume fresh fruit on a daily basis.
WHAT THIS MEANS
Diabetes is a disease that affects more than 400 million people around the globe, which is no small thing. In China, the world’s most populous nation of nearly 1.4 billion citizens, about a quarter of the population is diabetic.1,2 Diabetes refers to a group of diseases that impact how the body uses blood sugar, also known as glucose. Individuals with diabetes have too much glucose in their blood, which can lead to serious health problems. 3 Risk factors for diabetes include being overweight or obese, inactivity, diet, race, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels and family history.3
The complications from diabetes are serious and potentially life-threatening. They include cardiovascular disease, nerve, kidney, eye and foot damage, skin issues, hearing impairment and Alzheimer’s disease.3 Due to the sugar content of fresh fruit, called fructose, there has been confusion on whether or not fresh fruit has a negative impact on blood glucose, in turn raising the risk of developing diabetes or worsening diabetic symptoms in those with diabetes.
ABOUT THE STUDY
To address this uncertainty, researchers in China conducted a massive study that included over 500,000 participants ages 35 to 74 years old from rural and urban areas across the country. Participants completed a questionnaire that collected information on economic status, smoking, alcohol intake, diet, physical activity and medical history. Researchers took blood pressure and physical measurements and collected a blood sample to classify each participant as non-diabetic or diabetic at baseline. Dietary data was collected on 12 major food groups (including fresh fruit, fresh and preserved veggies, meat and dairy products) and participants were asked about consumption habits over the past year (daily, 4-6 days/week, 1-3 days/week, monthly or never/rarely).
RESULTS OF THE STUDY
Overall, 18.8% of the participants reported consuming fruit daily, and these individuals had a 12% lower risk of developing diabetes than those who did not consume fresh fruit (6.4% of participants). Diabetic participants also benefitted greatly from regular fresh fruit consumption. Compared to those who consumed fruit one day or less per week, diabetics who ate fresh fruit at least three (3) days a week had a 17% reduced risk of dying from any cause and 13%-28% lower risk of experiencing diabetes-related complications such as stroke, kidney disease, or eye disease.1 Higher fresh fruit intake was not associated with elevated level of blood glucose.
This study was a big win for fruit lovers. Contrary to any misconceptions floating around about fruit, this study showed that fruit not only helps to prevent diabetes, but also helps to protect and improve the health of those who have diabetes. It’s important to note that this study only looked at fresh fruit consumption and did not measure the intake of dried, canned or preserved fruit or fruit juice. These other forms of fruit often contain added sugars, which would certainly contribute to elevated blood glucose level.
Diabetes affects nearly 10% of Americans and it is projected to impact one-in-three U.S. adults by the year 2050.4 We recommend filling half your plate with fruits and veggies at every meal and snack. Not sure where to start? We suggest starting small: toss berries into your yogurt or oatmeal, sprinkle bananas on cereal, keep an apple at your desk, store fresh fruit on the counter, add avocado to your salad, swap fruit salad for ice cream, or add your favorite fruit to frozen yogurt.
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