Want To Avoid Diabetes? Eat Plants

Because plants contain flavonoids, and flavonoids are consistently linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes in studies. Here’s the latest:

Dietary Intakes of Individual Flavanols and Flavonols Are Inversely Associated with Incident Type 2 Diabetes in European Populations, The Journal of Nutrition, March 2014

“In this large prospective study across 8 European countries, all flavan-3-ol monomers, proanthocyanidins with lower degree of polymerization, and the flavonol myricetin were inversely related to a lower risk of [type 2 diabetes].”

This study says:

“Flavonoids are a large group of secondary metabolites in plants that comprise 6 subclasses: flavanols or flavan-3-ols (flavan-3-ol monomers, proanthocyanidins, and theaflavins), anthocyanidins, flavonols, flavanones, flavones, and isoflavones.”

So the word “flavonoid” is a bucket term; the study found some flavonoids were more protective than others. But all flavonoids are found exclusively in plants. The main food sources of one particularly beneficial flavanol were “tea and some fruit, particularly apples and pears.”


Here’s a study from a few months ago, similar group of investigators:

The Association Between Dietary Flavonoid and Lignan Intakes and Incident Type 2 Diabetes in European Populations, The EPIC-InterAct study, Diabetes Care, December 2013

“CONCLUSIONS Prospective findings in this large European cohort demonstrate inverse associations between flavonoids, particularly flavanols and flavonols, and incident type 2 diabetes. This suggests a potential protective role of eating a diet rich in flavonoids, a dietary pattern based on plant-based foods, in the prevention of type 2 diabetes.”

How do flavonoids protect against diabetes? From the first study:

“Several in vitro and in vivo studies have evaluated the antidiabetic effects of individual flavan-3-ol monomers and flavan-3-ol–rich foods (e.g., cocoa and tea), showing a high range of activities related to improving glucose homeostasis, such as inhibition of glucosidase activity and glucose absorption from the intestine, protection of pancreatic β cells, increased insulin secretion, activation of insulin receptors and glucose uptake in the insulin-sensitive tissues, and modulation of intracellular signaling pathways and genes involved in gluconeogenesis and glycogenesis.”

People underestimate the benefit of a plant-strong diet. They also underestimate the detriment of a meat-and-dairy-rich diet. I’ve had many people ask me, “What I eat doesn’t have anything to do with whether I get diabetes. Does it?” It does.

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