The equivalent of eating two bananas, four broccoli spears, a portion of strawberries and a large handful of cherry tomatoes every day can halve the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, a study has found.
As an indicator of daily fruit and vegetable intake, researchers compared the blood levels of vitamin C in a group of 9,754 type 2 diabetic participants with another made up of 13,662 people without the condition.
They also tested for blood levels of carotenoids- plant pigments which give some fruit and vegetables their bright colour- for the same reason.
The volunteers were then categorised into five groups based on their blood “biomarker” levels, with the lowest group typically eating 274g of fruit and vegetables per day and the highest group consuming around 508g.
Those in the latter group, who eat the daily equivalent of two bananas, 4 broccoli spears, seven strawberries and 10 cherry tomatoes, had up to a 50 percent reduced risk of diabetes compared to those with lowest intakes
Even people who ate less than 508g per day could lower their risk of the condition by eating modest amounts more than what they were already consuming, researchers say.
The international study, published in The British Medical Journal, was led by the University of Cambridge, and involved participants from across 8 European countries, including the UK, whose ages ranged from 20 to 79.
Its results confirm the previous suggestion that small lifestyle adjustments such as healthier diets can significantly reduce the chance of developing type-2 diabetes.
Prof Nita Forouhi, the study’s lead author, told The Telegraph: “Though the benefits of fruit/veg consumption have been promoted for decades in the “five-a-day” message, in the past there has been uncertainty about their role for the prevention of type 2 diabetes.
Our study, using objective blood markers of fruit/veg intake shows that even a small increase in the amount of fruit/veg in the diet can help to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.”
An estimated 4.7million Britons have diabetes, with 9 in 10 having the type 2 form, which can lead to blindness, heart disease and kidney failure, but is largely preventable and two in three adults are overweight or obese.
It occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or the body cannot effectively use the glucose-regulating hormone.
Experts believe fibre rich vegetables can help reduce the chances of developing the condition, as they help slow down the absorption of sugars into the bloodstream, aiding digestion and increasing feelings of fullness after eating.
While food habits are important, weight gain is the single biggest risk for type 2 diabetes, raising the chances of developing the condition sixfold, according to research by the University of Copenhagen.
Scientists recommend that a balanced and healthy lifestyle is the best way to delay or prevent developing the condition.