By Tracy Kelly, Diabetes UK clinical adviser
According to research just published, eating high levels of flavonoids is linked to a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Flavonoids aren’t only found in healthy food such as berries, apples and pears, but also in wine and chocolate – so can it possibly be true?
The study does seem to show an association between flavonoids and lower risk of type 2 diabetes. Almost 2,000 women completed a food questionnaire designed to estimate total dietary flavonoid intake, then their blood samples were analysed for evidence of both glucose regulation and inflammation and were used to give an indication of insulin resistance. The researchers found that those who consumed plenty of anthocyanins and flavones (two specific types of flavonoids) had lower insulin resistance and were also less likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
But we need to interpret the findings with caution. For one thing, there have been contradictory findings from other studies. For another, even if high flavonoid consumption and lower type 2 diabetes risk do tend to happen together, it doesn’t necessarily mean one is causing the other.
So what should people be doing to reduce their risk of type 2 diabetes? Diabetes UK already recommends a healthy lifestyle that involves doing regular physical activity and eating a healthy diet to help maintain a healthy weight. This includes eating plenty of fruit and vegetables, many of which are rich in flavonoids. But we don’t advise going mad for red wine and chocolate, which also contain them.
Our advice is to limit your consumption of these – and that’s unlikely to change, even if further research does demonstrate that flavonoids reduce type 2 diabetes risk. That’s because any health benefit from the flavonoids would be dramatically outweighed by the calories in the chocolate and the alcohol in the wine!
So although this is interesting research, the findings don’t alter our recommendations for lowering your risk: eat a healthy, balanced diet and get plenty of physical activity.