Although benefits of eating fresh fruit and vegetables are well documented, people with diabetes avoid fruit due to its high sugar content. Now, a study in China suggests fresh fruit not only helps prevent diabetes, it also reduces the risk of vascular complications and even death for those already living with the condition.
“This is the first large prospective study demonstrating similar inverse associations of fruit consumption with both incident diabetes and diabetic complications,” the authors wrote.
More than 420 million people are affected by diabetes globally. In 2012, the World Health Organization (WHO) blamed diabetes for the deaths of more than 1.5 million people worldwide.
In the United States the disease affects more than 29 million people.It is a leading cause of death in the country, accounting for almost 80,000 deaths each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
What motivated the researchers was the fact that no studies have so far looked into how long-term fresh fruit consumption affected the rate of diabetes or the risk of diabetes-induced cardiovascular complications.
The research team was led by Huaidong Du of the University of Oxford in the UK.
For their study, Du and colleagues investigated effects of fresh fruit consumption on almost half a million people aged between 30 and 79, enrolled in the China Kadoorie Biobank national study. All participants lived in 10 different areas across China.
The researchers clinically followed the subjects for approximately 7 years.
During this period, the team identified 9,504 cases of diabetes in people who did not have the disease at the study onset.
The researchers used Cox regression model to analyze the correlations with diabetes and eating fresh fruit. They also adjusted for sex, age, body mass index (BMI), socioeconomic status, location, and family history of diabetes.
Among the adults, 18.8 percent said they ate fresh fruit every day, and 6.4 percent said that they rarely or never consumed them. Participants who had been previously diagnosed with diabetes were 3 times as likely to not consume fruit as those without diabetes or with screen-detected diabetes.
The findings showed that people who did not have diabetes at the start of the study and ate high amounts of fresh fruit had a significantly lower risk of diabetes. Also, those who were diagnosed with diabetes at the start of the study and ate fresh fruit in high amounts had a significantly lower risk of all-cause mortality, as well as a lesser risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
More specifically, those who consumed fresh fruit every day had a 12 percent lower relative risk of developing diabetes compared with the other study participants.
Individuals who had diabetes at the study onset but ate fresh fruit more than 3 times each week had a 17 percent reduced risk of dying from any cause, and up to a 28 percent reduced risk of developing both major and minor cardiovascular complications.
Ultimately, the findings mean that those who ate fruit every day had a 0.2 percent reduction in their absolute risk of developing diabetes over a 5-year period, and participants diagnosed with diabetes had a 1.9 percent absolute decrease in the risk of dying from any cause.
Explaining the significance of these findings, the team says:
“These findings suggest that a higher intake of fresh fruit is potentially beneficial for primary and secondary prevention of diabetes. For individuals who have already developed diabetes, restricted consumption of fresh fruit, which is common in many parts of the world […] should not be encouraged.”
The study was published in the journal PLOS Medicine.
Fresh fruit for diabetics
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