More than 34 million Americans have diabetes, and more than 90 percent of those people have type 2 diabetes. About 1.7 million or one in twelve Texas adults are diagnosed with diabetes, another 425,000 are undiagnosed and more than a million are estimated to have pre-diabetes and are at high risk for developing the disease within 10 years, according to the Texas Diabetes Council.
There is a common misconception that a diet high in sugar, even natural sugars, can lead to developing type two diabetes. But a recent study out of Australia has shown that eating at least two servings of fruit a day is linked to a 36% lower chance of developing diabetes.
“We found an association between fruit intake and markers of insulin sensitivity, suggesting that people who consumed more fruit had to produce less insulin to lower their blood glucose levels,” says Nicola Bondonno, Ph.D., lead author of the study and researcher at Edith Cowan University (ECU) in Western Australia.
“This is important because high levels of circulating insulin (hyperinsulinemia) can damage blood vessels and are related not only to diabetes, but also to high blood pressure, obesity, and heart disease,” she continues to say in the press release.
About the Study
The study involved over 7,600 Australians and assessed how consistent fruit and fruit juice intake may affect the rate of diabetes after 5 years. Participants were asked to indicate their usual frequency of intake of food items, over the previous 12 months, using a list of 74 food items with 10 frequency response options ranging from “never” to “three or more times per day.” Food items included fruit juice (unspecific) and 10 different types of fruit.
The researchers noted that participants who had high fruit intake also had better measures for glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity, and a lower risk of developing diabetes compared to those with lower fruit intake.
However, the same could not be said for fruit juice. Researchers found the most likely reason for this is that most fruit juices contain large amounts of sugar without any of the beneficial fiber that fresh fruit provides. While fruit juice may seem like a healthier alternative to reaching for a soda, considering it still has some vitamins, minerals and micronutrients, fruit juice can be nutritionally similar to opening up a can of soda pop.
Type 2 diabetes is often considered a ‘lifestyle’ disease because how we choose to live can play an important role in our risk for developing the disease. While high levels of circulating insulin (hyperinsulinemia) is associated with diabetes, the damage that happens to the blood vessels due to high insulin is also related to high blood pressure, obesity, and heart disease.
The good news is that there are many lifestyle choices in addition to eating a healthy, well-balanced diet that you can make to reduce your risk, such as being physically active and maintaining a healthy weight.
A good resource to get you started is the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, a free resource provided by the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, to give Americans a tool to develop and help implement a healthier diet into their lifestyle. If you prefer more guidance, Texas Health also offers Medical Nutrition Therapy programs and has diabetes education centers throughout the metroplex that are created and run by registered dietitians, nutritionists and certified diabetes educators to help you get started and achieve goals.
Lifestyle changes can postpone or possibly alleviate a diagnosis of diabetes. Even small lifestyle changes can add up to large health benefits.
For more information about diabetes and Texas Health’s diabetes outpatient centers, and to take a diabetes risk assessment, visit TexasHealth.org/Diabetes.