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Two Carotenoids Common in Fall Foods May Decrease Diabetes Risk

Here’s some good news for people who like to fill up on pumpkin during this time of year: Research suggests that two carotenoids found in pumpkin, beta- and alpha-carotene, are associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. Carotenoids are known for their antioxidant properties, and are found in yellow, red, orange, and green fruits and vegetables. The study, published in Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Disease, looked at dietary data from 37,846 people who participated in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition-Netherlands study. Participants filled out diet questionnaires, which researchers used to assess intakes of carotenoids including beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. They found that the average total intake was around 6 to 14 mg per day. During a follow-up period of 8 to 12 years, 915 participants developed type 2 diabetes. After adjusting for age, sex, diabetes risk factors, dietary intake, waist circumference, and BMI, researchers found that:
People with the highest intake of dietary beta-carotene had a 22% diabetes risk-reduction compared to people with the lowest intake.
People with the highest intake of dietary alpha-carotene had a 15% diabetes risk-reduction compared to people with the lowest intake.
Beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein, lycopene, and zeaxanthin intakes were not associated with a decrease or increase in diabetes risk.
The findings suggest that eating a diet full of fruits and vegetables containing beta-carotene and alpha-carotene may provide health benefits. However, more clinical research is needed to link these two carotenoids with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. In addition to pumpkin, other fall favorites like carrots, collards, and winter squash also contain beta-carotene and other carotenoids.
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