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Protection Against Diabetes


Tomatoes Play Important Role in Diet

Currently, there are 16 million Americans with diabetes mellitus. This is a condition in which the pancreas ceases to produce insulin, leading to many physical complications. One interesting aspect about diabetes is that it is a condition characterized by oxidative stress. Now a study suggests that phytochemicals called carotenoids, which have antioxidant activity, may protect against the development of diabetes. Five carotenoids (ß-carotene, lycopene, crypotoxanthin and lutein/zeaxanthin) were measured in a large group of people who were categorized as having either normal glucose tolerance, impaired glucose tolerance, diabetes, or those with a family history of diabetes. They found that ß-carotene and lycopene were highest in those individuals with normal glucose tolerance; lower in those with impaired glucose tolerance; and lowest in those with diabetes. It appears that certain carotenoids can greatly reduce the risk for diabetes, and this may be through their antioxidant actions. For this reason, eating a diet of vegetables high in these antioxidants--such as tomatoes and yellow/orange vegetables--or supplementing with antioxidant phytochemicals, may help reduce the risk of developing diabetes.

Ford, E.S., et al. Diabetes mellitus and serum carotenoids: findings from the Third National Health and Nutrition Survey. Am. J. Epidemiol., 1999; 149: 168-176

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