Diabetes is something that affects over 37 million American adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For those in the United States, it’s also the seventh leading cause of death. Fortunately, certain foods can increase the lifespan of those who deal with diabetes, according to new research that was presented at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) Annual Meeting, according to Medscape.
In a meta-analysis of studies primarily performed in the United States and Europe that focused on all-cause mortality of adults with type 2 diabetes, researchers noted dietary habits, including the consumption and intake levels of macronutrients like carbohydrates, protein, and fat, as well as micronutrients or vitamins and minerals. They also took note of supplements and secondary plant compounds like polyphenols. During the studies, follow-ups were done after an average of 10 years.
The resulting data showed that eggs and dietary cholesterol were connected to a higher risk of all-cause mortality. Vegetables and plant protein had an inverse association, but the researchers noted that it wasn’t statistically significant. On the other hand, whole grains, fish, fiber, and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids were found to have a significant connection to decreased risk of all-cause mortality for those with type 2 diabetes.
Researchers found that to reap life-lengthening benefits, those with type 2 diabetes needed to add just one serving (around 20 grams) of whole grains from foods such as brown bread, brown rice, or breakfast cereals to their daily diet. Doing so decreased their risk of all-cause mortality by 16%.
Separately, a single serving of fish per week (yes, just one serving a week!) lowered the risk by 5% while 100 milligrams per day of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids reduced the risk by 13%. Just 5 grams a day of fiber was associated with a 14% reduction.
“This meta-analysis was a 10-year-long study reviewing foods often promoted in the Mediterranean diet way of eating,” Cheryl Mussatto, MS, RD, LD, clinical dietitian and author of The Nourished Brain, tells Eat This, Not That! “It was not surprising to me of the findings from this study as this way of eating has an excellent track record of improving not only heart health but also possible reductions for dementia and even some cancers.”
When it comes to how each of these foods may help those with diabetes, Mussatto explains that “whole grain or 100% whole wheat foods […] may improve insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism while slowing down the absorption of food that in turn, prevent blood sugar spikes.”
Mussatto also notes, “From the time a person is told they have type 2 diabetes, their risk for heart disease jumps by 2 to 4 times greater than people without diabetes. That’s why consuming fatty fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, albacore tuna, sardines, mackerel, and halibut, are excellent fish choices for reducing heart disease risk and inflammation.”
“Fiber, which is only found in plant-based foods, is especially important in managing diabetes,” Mussatto adds. Saying that “the benefits of fiber for all of us are numerous,” she explains, “For anyone with diabetes, fiber helps control blood sugar by slowing down digestion, it prevents the body from absorbing too much fat and cholesterol which lowers the risk of heart disease, and it maintains good digestive health.”