An apple a day may do more than just "keep the doctor away".
New research suggests snacking on fruit could also ward off type 2 diabetes.
After analysing more than 7,000 adults, scientists from Edith Cowan University in Perth found those whose ate at least two servings of any fruit every day were 36% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes over the next five years.
Fruits' potent vitamin, mineral and fibre content is thought to make cells more sensitive to the blood sugar-lowering hormone insulin, helping to prevent the disease.
Writing in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, the scientists noted the benefits are lost when oranges, apples or pineapples are juiced.
"A healthy diet and lifestyle, which includes the consumption of whole fruits, is a great strategy to lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes," said lead author Dr Nicola Bondonno.
"As well as being high in vitamins and minerals, fruits are a great source of phytochemicals [nutritious compounds in plants] – which may increase insulin sensitivity – and fibre, which helps regulate the release of sugar into the blood and people feel fuller for longer.
"Furthermore, most fruits typically have a low glycaemic index [a measure of how quickly a carbohydrate affects a person's blood sugar], which means the fruit's sugar is digested and absorbed into the body more slowly."
In the UK, 3.9 million people had been diagnosed with diabetes in 2019, of whom around 90% had type 2.
Type 2 diabetes' onset is often linked to a patient's lifestyle, like carrying excess weight or being too sedentary.
Left untreated, the condition can lead to heart disease, blindness and even limb amputations.
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With type 2 diabetes expected to affect 5.5 million people in the UK alone by 2030, the scientists set out to uncover how dietary tweaks could reduce a person's risk.
The team analysed participants – average age 54 – of the Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle Study, which included information on their fruit and fruit juice intake.
"We found an association between fruit intake and markers of insulin sensitivity, suggesting people who consumed more fruit had to produce less insulin to lower their blood glucose levels," said Dr Bondonno.
"This is important because high levels of circulating insulin can damage blood vessels and are related not only to diabetes but also to high blood pressure, obesity and heart disease."
Fruit juice was not found to have the same benefits, however.
"This is likely because juice tends to be much higher in sugar and lower in fibre," said Dr Bondonno.
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