Flavonoids in chocolate, tea and berries may protect against diabetes

January 22, 2014 in Diabetes & Diabetes Prevention, Nutrition Topics in the News

Flavonoids in chocolate, tea and berries may protect against diabetes

Eating high levels of flavonoids including anthocyanins and other compounds (found in berries, tea, and chocolate) could offer protection from type 2 diabetes - according to research from the University of East Anglia (UEA) and King's College London.

Findings published today in the Journal of Nutrition reveal that high intakes of these dietary compounds are associated with lower insulin resistance and better blood glucose regulation.

A study of almost 2,000 people also found that these food groups lower inflammation which, when chronic, is associated with diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

The study focused on a subclass of flavonoids called flavones (found in herbs and vegetables such as parsley, thyme and celery) and anthocyanins (found in berries, red grapes, wine and other red or blue-coloured fruits and vegetables).

Laboratory studies have shown these types of foods might modulate blood glucose regulation – affecting the risk of type 2 diabetes. But until now little has been know about how habitual intakes might affect insulin resistance (the inability of the body to use insulin properly), blood glucose regulation and inflammation in humans.

Researchers studied almost 2,000 healthy women who had completed a food questionnaire designed to estimate total dietary flavonoid intake as well as intakes from six flavonoid subclasses. Blood samples were analyzed for evidence of both glucose regulation and inflammation. Insulin resistance, a hallmark of type 2 diabetes, was assessed using an equation that considered both fasting insulin and glucose levels.

The researchers found that those who consumed plenty of anthocyanins and flavones had lower insulin resistance. Since high insulin resistance is associated with Type 2 diabetes, people who eat foods rich in these two flavonoids – such as berries, herbs, red grapes, wine– are less likely to develop the disease.

As well, those who ate the most anthocyanins were least likely to suffer chronic inflammation – which is associated with many of today's chronic diseases including diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

People who consumed the most flavone compounds also had improved levels of a protein (adiponectin), which helps regulate a number of metabolic processes including glucose levels.

Source: Journal of Nutrition, January 2104.

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