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Carrots: the new diabetes remedy?
Eating your vegetables may not just help build strong bones and promote heart health--you may also be protecting yourself against diabetes.
Scientists at Stanford University report some interesting news in the journal Human Genetics, where they state that high levels of beta carotene might actually decrease a person's risk for diabetes.
The Orange Wonder
Beta carotene--found in foods like carrots, sweet potatoes and butternut squash--seems to interact with specific genes that predispose a person to diabetes. And while there are about 18 major genetic variants that are linked to diabetes risk, scientists say that the way these genes interact with certain nutrients is a critical indicator of whether or not someone will develop the disease. Study author Dr. Atul Butte, an associate professor of systems medicine in pediatrics at Stanford, elaborates:
"We realized that maybe some of the reason why these genetic markers aren’t really that potent or haven’t been that potent in other people’s studies, is that the genes themselves may not cause diseases. It’s the genes with the environment that cause disease."
The Glucose Connection
Butte explains that the way certain gene mutations react in the presence of high or low levels of nutrients can predispose the body to process glucose either more or less effectively.
The study also found that high levels gamma tocopherol, a form of vitamin D, could increase a person's risk for diabetes.
The research is still in preliminary stages, confirming that beta carotene and gamma tocopherol levels can be markers of risk. But more studies on the effects of dietary changes on these markers would be helpful, Butte notes.
“What the findings suggest is that if you have a genetic marker now or a predisposition for Type 2 diabetes, all you really need to do is increase the number of carrots you eat to increase your beta carotene, and maybe you can compensate for having that spot in your genome,” said Butte.
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