Diabetes and Fruit and Vegetable Consumption




Am J Health Promot

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Consumer Data: Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2
Professional Data: Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2


Diabetes can affect people of any age and can lead to debilitating conditions when not properly cared for. Diabetes increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, blindness, peripheral neuropathies (tingling in the hands and feet due to poor nerve function), peripheral vascular disease leading to amputation, immune deficiencies, skin breakdown leading to open sores, poor wound healing, and kidney disease. Type 1 diabetes is a disorder in which the beta cells in the pancreas are destroyed, thus causing the pancreas to produce little or no insulin. Someone with type 1 diabetes needs to take insulin. Ninety percent of individuals with diabetes have type 2 diabetes. In type 2 diabetes, the pancreas is initially producing enough insulin, but, for unknown reasons, the body cannot use the insulin effectively. This condition is known as insulin resistance. After several years, insulin production decreases and eventually the individual will likely need to take insulin. One in five patients with type 2 diabetes is over the age of 65 and 80 percent are overweight.1
It comes as no surprise that eating a healthy diet and regularly exercising can help control if not eliminate the progression of diabetes as well as other chronic diseases. A healthy diet including fruits and vegetables could help prevent diabetes from ever occurring. A study of U.S. adults reported that higher levels of fruit and vegetable consumption might decrease the risk of diabetes in adults, particularly women. Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta base that conclusion on a group of individuals between the ages of 25 and 74 who participated in the first National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. These people had their diets closely followed for about 20 years. Out of 9,665 participants, 1,018 developed diabetes mellitus. The average daily intake of fruits and vegetables as well as the number of participants consuming five or more fruits and vegetables per day was lower among the participants who developed diabetes than among the participants in the study who remained free of this disease. The investigators concluded that these results suggest that fruit and vegetable consumption may decrease the risk for diabetes and that education may partly explain this association.2
As indicated, education regarding appropriate fruit and vegetable intake is a key factor in healthy eating. A telephone survey of more 2800 people in 1991 evaluated several variables responsible for determining someone's fruit and vegetable intake. These variables included whether they liked the taste, whether they had been in the habit of eating many fruits and vegetables since childhood and how many servings they thought they should have in a day. The number of servings per day could be the most important variable because the survey also determined that only 8% of American adults thought that five or more servings of fruits and vegetables were needed for good health. The authors of this survey feel that educating the American public regarding the need for five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day is important because this knowledge is associated with increased consumption of fruits and vegetables.3


1. Tuomilehto J, Wolf E. Primary prevention of diabetes. Diabetes Care. Mar 1987;10(2):238-48.
2. Ford ES, Mokdad AH. Fruit and vegetable consumption and diabetes mellitus incidence among U.S. adults. Prev Med. Jan 2001;32(1):33-9.
3. Krebs-Smith SM, Heimendinger J, Patterson BH, Subar AF, Kessler R, Pivonka E. Psychosocial factors associated with fruit and vegetable consumption. Am J Health Promot. Nov-Dec 1995;10(2):98-104.