Preventing diabetes is simple with antioxidants

Antioxidants pack a particularly powerful punch against diabetes. I’ve been recommending antioxidants for as long as I’ve been writing about health. Bioflavonoids, polyphenols, or flavanols—they’re all just antioxidants by a different name. And the more you consume, the lower your odds of developing any number of diseases.

A new study recently showed that an antioxidant-rich diet can lower your risk of type 2 diabetes. And while this might sound like a ho-hum finding, it’s actually quite important.

Why? Well, typically, researchers will investigate the effects of isolated antioxidant nutrients. (Like vitamin E, for example.) This study, however, was focused on total antioxidant consumption — demonstrating just how big of an impact a smart diet can really make.

The study followed more than 64,000 women with a mean age of 52 — and without any sign of diabetes or heart disease at the outset. Subjects reported on their typical diet using a detailed questionnaire that covered over 200 different foods.

The researchers used this information to calculate total antioxidant intakes for each woman in the study — and then measured that score against subjects’ type 2 diabetes risk.

Over the course of 15 years, 1,751 women (nearly 3 per cent) went on to develop diabetes. But results showed that the women who ate the most antioxidants were nearly 40 per cent less likely to face down this diagnosis than the women who consumed the least.

Ultimately, this risk reduction appeared to be dose-dependent — dropping lower as total antioxidant intake increased. But in this study, at least, the effect hit a ceiling at 15 millimoles (mmol) per day. (For reference, a 3.5 ounce serving of green tea delivers close to 3 mmol of antioxidants.)

In other words, you don’t have to eat your weight in antioxidant-rich foods to see a benefit.

Researchers found the foods containing the highest antioxidant scores to be:

  • Fruits (23%)
  • Vegetables (19%)
  • Alcoholic beverages, particularly wine (15%)
  • Tea (12%)

Not surprising—though I’d argue that some of those sources are better than others. As for the wine, that’s all well and good, but be careful of the sugar content. And remember to avoid drinking in excess if you want to reap the health benefits.

Nevertheless, I’ll give props where it’s due. Food that’s packed with antioxidants — even if it isn’t perfect — beats the nutrient-devoid garbage found in junk food.

Power up on antioxidant-rich foods including:

  • dark green veggies (kale, collard greens, broccoli, spinach)
  • nuts (macadamia, walnuts, brazil nuts, pecans)
  • orange veggies (carrots and sweet potatoes)
  • berries (blueberries, blackberries, cranberries)
  • tea (purple and green are my go-to’s)
  • herbs and spices (turmeric, basil, cumin, cocoa, oregano, cinnamon)

Obviously, I won’t be swearing off supplements anytime soon. But it’s clear that even the most cutting-edge regimen is no substitute for a healthy diet. The bottom line: Eat your antioxidants, every single day.

To your good health,

Fred Pescatore, M.D.
Contributing Editor