FRIDAY, Aug. 20, 2010 (HealthDay News) -- A new analysis of existing research suggests that eating more green, leafy vegetables can significantly reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, but more study is needed.
An estimated 6.4 percent of people in the world have diabetes, and the rates of type 2 diabetes have been going up in the United States as the population has become more overweight, the authors of the analysis noted. Scientists have been trying to understand the role that diet plays in the development of the disease.
Researchers, led by nutritionist Patrice Carter at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom, examined six studies that looked at the links between diet and the incidence of type 2 diabetes. They found that compared with those who ate the least amount of green, leafy vegetables (0.2 servings daily), people who ate the most (1.35 servings daily) had a 14 percent reduction in risk for type 2 diabetes.
However, the analysis didn't show that increasing overall intake of fruit, vegetables, or a combination of both would make a significant difference in risk, Carter and colleagues reported in the Aug. 19 online edition of the BMJ.
Still, in the analysis authors concluded that "increasing daily intake of green, leafy vegetables could significantly reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and should be investigated further."
Diabetes researcher Jim Mann, who co-wrote a commentary accompanying the analysis, said in an interview that the findings don't change the general message of the medical community that people should eat lots of fruits and vegetables.
The research is "a reminder of just how important dietary factors are in reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes. There's far more evidence for this than for any drug treatments," said Mann, a professor in the department of human nutrition at the University of Otago in New Zealand.
In regard to green, leafy vegetables, Mann wrote in his commentary that it may be reasonable to draw attention to their potential benefits and that they could be incorporated into one of the five recommended portions of fruits and vegetables a day. In an interview, he added: "Though they are certainly a potential component of a diet likely to reduce the risk -- not only of diabetes but all chronic disease -- the message needs to go beyond green, leafy vegetables."
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has details on diets for people with diabetes.