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More reason to eat more greens

British researchers reviewed six earlier studies on links between diabetes and the consumption of fruits and vegetables found that eating an extra serving a day of vegetables like spinach, cabbage, and broccoli reduced adults’ risk of getting type 2 diabetes by 14%. The review, published today in the British Medical Journal, looked at six studies, which covered more than 200,000 people between 30 and 74 years old, in the United States, China and Finland.

The findings don’t prove that the veggies themselves prevent diabetes. People who eat more green leafy vegetables may also have a healthier diet overall, exercise more, or may be better off financially than people who don’t load up on greens. Any of those factors could affect how likely they are to get diabetes. But, “the data suggest that green leafy vegetables are key,” said Patrice Carter of the diabetes research unit at Leicester University, the study’s lead author. “Fruit and vegetables are all good, but the data significantly show that green leafy vegetables are particularly interesting, so further investigation is warranted. Green leafy vegetables contain antioxidants, magnesium and omega 3 fatty acids — all of which have been shown to have health benefits”.

Each of the studies that Carter and her colleagues analyzed followed a group of adults over periods of 4-and-a-half to 23 years, recording how many servings of fruits and vegetables each participant ate on a daily basis then examining who was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

Green leafy vegetables stood out, however, with an increase of 1.15 servings a day producing a 14% decrease in an individual’s risk of developing diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition often linked to poor diet and lack of exercise and is reaching epidemic levels as rates of obesity rise. However, it’s important not to point to green leafy vegetables as a “magic bullet” for diabetes prevention and forget the broader picture of whole food groups wrote Dr. Jim Mann, of the Edgar National Centre for Diabetes and Obesity Research at the University of Otago in New Zealand and Dagfinn Aune of London’s Imperial College in an accompanying editorial. Adding, “the findings are a useful reminder to clinicians that giving dietary advice may be just as beneficial, if not more so, than prescribing drugs to patients at risk of chronic disease.”

SOURCE: British Medical Journal, online August 20, 2010.


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