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Does eating more fruit and vegetables reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes?

A large research study finds a link between eating more fruits and vegetables and lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes is considered one of the biggest global health emergencies of the 21st century. Recent research shows that one in three Canadians lives with either diabetes or pre-diabetes, and type 2 diabetes is one of the fastest-growing diseases in Canada. However, type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed through healthy lifestyle changes. 

Having a high fruit and vegetable intake is suggested to play an important role in the prevention of type 2 diabetes however, there is little definitive evidence to support this claim. Previous studies rely on food frequency questionnaires which, have significant room for error or bias. With this in mind, researchers set out to investigate the link between fruit and vegetable intake and type 2 diabetes, across eight European countries. 

Published in the British Medical Journalresearchers measured vitamin C and carotenoids in the blood of over 23,000 people in eight European countries over 16 years. Data for the study was collated from over 9000 patients with incident type 2 diabetes and over 13000 patients from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) cohort. Vitamin C and carotenoids are considered reliable biomarkers of fruit and vegetable consumption. By measuring these biomarkers in blood plasma, it is much more accurate than relying on self-reported food frequency questionnaires. 

Results show an inverse relationship between people who ate the most fruits and vegetables and cases of type 2 diabetes. Meaning, the higher the fruit and vegetable intake, the lower the incidence of diabetes. Patients who ate the least amount of fruit and vegetables had the highest rates of type 2 diabetes. Interestingly, the study showed that even a modest amount of additional fruits and vegetables (one extra serving per day) reduced the risk of diabetes by approximately 30%.  

Over the last decade, the volume of fruit and vegetable consumption has decreased, with less than 30% of people in Canada eating five portions per day. This study highlights the importance of fruit and vegetable intake as it shows that even adding one extra serving to your plate is enough to see positive results. It identifies a definitive link between eating more fruits and vegetables and lowering your risk of type 2 diabetes by as much as 50%. 

The high prevalence of type 2 diabetes in Canada accounts for 90-95% of a diabetes diagnosis, with an increasing amount of diagnoses being seen in children. Complications of diabetes can be life-threatening and include; stroke, heart attack, kidney failure, and non-traumatic amputation. This study suggests that even a moderate increase in fruit and vegetable intake can help prevent type 2 diabetes. It sends a strong public health message about the importance of diet in the battle against type 2 diabetes. 

Written by Helen Massy, BSc.


DiabetesCanadaWebsite. 2020. Preventing Diabetes. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 14 July 2020].

DiabetesCanadaWebsite. 2020. One in three Canadians is living with diabetes or prediabetes. [online] Available at: <,-yet-knowledge-of-risk-and-complicatio> [Accessed 14 July 2020].

Global News. 2020. UBC Study Finds Canadian Fruit And Vegetable Consumption Down By 13 Per Cent. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 14 July 2020].

Houlden, R., 2018. Introduction. Canadian Journal of Diabetes, 42, pp.S1-S5.

Statista. 2020. Canadians Fruit And Vegetable Consumption Per Day Percent 2003-2017 | Statista. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 14 July 2020].

Zheng, J., Sharp, S., Imamura, F., Chowdhury, R., Gundersen, T., Steur, M., Sluijs, I., van der Schouw, Y., Agudo, A., Aune, D., Barricarte, A., Boeing, H., Chirlaque, M., Dorronsoro, M., Freisling, H., El-Fatouhi, D., Franks, P., Fagherazzi, G., Grioni, S., Gunter, M., Kyrø, C., Katzke, V., Kühn, T., Khaw, K., Laouali, N., Masala, G., Nilsson, P., Overvad, K., Panico, S., Papier, K., Quirós, J., Rolandsson, O., Redondo-Sánchez, D., Ricceri, F., Schulze, M., Spijkerman, A., Tjønneland, A., Tong, T., Tumino, R., Weiderpass, E., Danesh, J., Butterworth, A., Riboli, E., Forouhi, N. and Wareham, N., 2020. Association of plasma biomarkers of fruit and vegetable intake with incident type 2 diabetes: EPIC-InterAct case-cohort study in eight European countries. BMJ, p.m2194.

Image by pasja1000 from Pixabay 



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