Red Wine, Chocolate, and Berries for Diabetes Prevention?

Maylin Rodriguez-Paez, RN

It sounds like a recipe for sweets, but the combination of red wine, berries, and chocolate may actually protect you against diabetes, hints the latest study out of the UK.

Researchers found this relationship after analyzing hundreds of food diaries.

Wine, berries, and chocolate are particularly rich sources of dietary flavonoids, antioxidants with well-known health benefits. And they also happen to be delicious.

Who knew diabetes prevention could taste this good?

Anthocyanins and Flavones Fight Insulin Resistance

The point of the study was to investigate the role of flavonoid subclasses on insulin resistance. Over 6,000 types of flavonoids exist.

Nearly 2,000 healthy women between the ages of 18-76 completed food questionnaires. Researchers calculated the amount of total flavonoids in their diet and their subclasses (i.e., flavanones, anthocyanins, flavan-3-ols, polymeric flavonoids, flavonols, and flavones).

Blood samples were drawn and markers for insulin resistance including fasting glucose, insulin levels, C-reactive protein, and adiponectin were analyzed.1

Women consuming higher amounts of anthocyanins and flavones had lower insulin levels, indicating a lower likelihood of insulin resistance. Higher anthocyanin intake was also linked to lower CRP (C-reactive protein) levels, a measure of inflammation.

Those who had the highest intake of flavones had lower levels of adiponectin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels.

Flavonoids May Protect Against Diabetes

Food questionnaire studies have their limitations. It’s hard to deduce a true relationship between a given food and a health condition. It’s always useful to look at additional studies.

For example, laboratory studies indicate flavonoids enhance insulin sensitivity, secretion, and protect beta-cell function.2,3,4,5,6 Beta-cells are the insulin secreting cells of the pancreas.

Clinical studies show berry preparations, rich in anthocyanins, reduce fasting glucose levels7,8 and HbA1c7, a measure of long-term glucose control.

These additional studies give support to the idea that flavonoids may very well protect against diabetes.

Eat More Flavonoids, Please!

The implications of this study are quite simple: Eat more flavonoid-containing foods, especially foods containing anthocyanins and flavones.

Anthocyanins are found in red, blue, and purple produce. Key foods include black beans, blueberries, wine, raspberries, blackberries, and grapes. Flavones are mostly found in herbs such as parsley, thyme, and in citrus peels. Flavonoids are found in nearly all plant foods, but chocolate and tea are rich sources.

If you really want to boost your overall flavonoid intake, supplement. It’s easier to obtain higher amounts of flavonoids through supplementation than through diet alone. Look for berry blends.

The Bottom Line

You don’t have to feel guilty about eating chocolate and drinking red wine moderately. And with berries added to the mix, you’re only doing yourself a favor.

It turns out you don’t have to eat a boring diet to be healthy. Cheers to that!

References:

  1. J Nutr. 2014 Feb;144(2):202-8.
  2. Pancreas. 2007 Nov;35(4):e1-9.
  3. Pharmacol Res. 2005 Feb;51(2):117-23.
  4. Biochem Pharmacol. 1992 Mar 17;43(6):1167-79.
  5. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2013 Jun;57(6):974-85.
  6. Food Chem Toxicol. 2014 Feb;64:10-9.
  7. Nutr J. 2011; 10: 45.
  8. Georgian Med News. 2006 Dec;(141):66-72.

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