Anyone who reads the paper or keeps up with the news has probably heard about what medical experts are dubbing the “epidemic” of diabetes. In the United States alone, there are between 25 and 30 million diabetics, and about 7 million of those are undiagnosed (and of course untreated). Diabetes can hit women particularly hard due to the fact that it can affect not only their health but the health of their unborn children. Diabetic moms are at risk for many problems with their pregnancies, including premature birth, complicated deliveries and even miscarriages. However, the good news is that there are many lifestyle choices women can make to help protect against developing this disease. Maintaining a normal body weight, exercising regularly and controlling stress are good example. And so is a diet which is rich in compounds called bioflavonoids, which recent research has linked to a decreased chance for developing diabetes.
Bioflavonoids are a particular kind of antioxidant, which is an umbrella term for a compound which is able to protect the body’s cells against oxidization, a process which is caused by the presence of free radicals in the body and which can lead to aging and disease. Bioflavonoids are found in certain fruits and vegetables, dark chocolate, red wine and tea. And they were a subject of a recent study which uncovered even more healthy benefits than what was previously known.
In this study, 2000 women across the UK between the ages of 18 and 76 were selected to participate. The women were asked to give detailed information about their medical and personal history and lifestyle habits such as exercise and also asked for a detailed list of what they ate, including an estimate of daily bioflavonoid consumption. Information like total dietary intake (in number of calories) and factors like the women’s BMI’s were also taken into account.
It was found that the average woman in this study consumed around 1.2g of bioflavonoids daily, with 0.6g being the lowest intake level and 1.7g the highest. The most popular source of bioflavonoids was tea (since England is still largely a tea-drinking nation) but other common sources included things like red peppers, berries, wine and citrus fruit.
During this study, researchers also took blood samples from their volunteers to measure markers for diabetes development, including levels of insulin, glucose levels and low-grade inflammation in the body which can often accompany diabetes. What they found was that women with higher levels of bioflavonoids in their diets also had the lowest levels of insulin resistance and inflammation, thus making it less likely that they would go on to develop diabetes.
This was the largest human study ever to link the dietary consumption of bioflavonoids with concrete proof that those compounds can actually lower disease risk. While further research is needed, this is a definite start to understanding the important role that these particular kinds of antioxidants can play in women’s long-term health.