Leafy Green Vegetables May Reduce Diabetes Risk

Increasing green leafy vegetables in the diet may reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to a study.

August 19, 2010 — People who add more leafy green vegetables to their diet may significantly reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to a new study.

Patrice Carter, a nutrition researcher at the University of Leicester, and colleagues reviewed six studies involving more than 220,000 people that focused on the links between fruits and vegetables and type 2 diabetes.

They concluded that consuming one and a half servings of leafy green vegetables a day reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes by 14 percent. However, they also found that consuming more fruits and vegetables in combination does not seem to affect that risk.

Fruit and vegetable intake

Although many studies have found that diets rich in fruits and vegetables reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer, it appears that many people are not getting the message, the researchers lament.

For example:

  • 86 percent of U.K. adults ate fewer than the recommended five servings a day of fruits and vegetables, according to a 2002 study.
  • 62 percent ate fewer than three servings.

Eat more vegetables

The authors point out that fruits and vegetables can prevent many chronic diseases, probably because of their antioxidant content.

Spinach and other green leafy vegetables may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes because of their high concentrations of polyphenols and vitamin C, compounds that have antioxidant properties. They also contain magnesium, which could further reduce the risk.

They conclude that people should be provided with specific, personalized advice to encourage them to eat more leafy green vegetables.

Despite the mounting evidence, the Leicester researchers’ study met with mild skepticism.

Another perspective

Jim Mann, PhD, of the University of Otago in New Zealand, and research assistant Dagfinn Aune, of Imperial College London, say they are cautious about the results. They say the message of eating more fruits and vegetables should not get lost in an “avalanche of magic cures.”

They say that given the limited number of studies focused on fruits, vegetables, and type 2 diabetes risk, “it may be too early to rule out a small reduction in risk for general fruit and vegetable consumption or other specific types of fruits and vegetables, and too early for a conclusion about leafy green vegetables.”

But Carter and colleagues seem to say that it is better to err on the side of caution, and that some evidence suggests that leafy green vegetables reduce diabetes risk, even if “the exact mechanisms” are unknown.

“The study adds evidence that a healthy lifestyle, and in particular green leafy vegetables, may help prevent type 2 diabetes,” Carter tells WebMD.

Leave a Comment