Eat your vegetables. Your grandma said it, your mom said it — even Popeye said it — and now your doctor should be saying it regularly as well. A new analysis of existing research suggests that eating more green, leafy vegetables can significantly reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Why is this important? Nearly one in five hospitalizations in 2008 involved patients with diabetes, according to a recent federal report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. And, the cost of caring for those patients was $83 billion for 7.7 million stays, or nearly one in four dollars of hospital costs that year, according to the report. The report also says the average cost for each of those diabetes-related hospitalizations was $10,937, nearly $2,200 more than the cost of a stay for a patient without a diagnosis of diabetes.
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. So, one of the consequences of not eating our vegetables is that it hits our wallets as drastically as it hits our waistlines. For decades, 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 (British Medical Journal).
Still, in the analysis, the authors concluded that “increasing daily intake of green, leafy vegetables could significantly reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and should be investigated further.” Evidence also indicates that these vegetables may play a role in prevention of certain cancers, as well as obesity and its consequences. So, what are some green, leafy veggies of choice? Well, spinach, of course, but also broccoli, kale, sprouts and cabbage can reduce the risk by 14 percent when eaten daily, because they are rich in antioxidants and magnesium, which has been linked to lower levels of diabetes. Whether we like it or not, no matter who it comes from, “eat your vegetables” is sound advice.