Health & Fitness

Eating fruits daily reduces Covid-19 risks in diabetics

Eating fruits daily reduces Covid-19 risks in diabetics
Eating fruits daily reduces Covid-19 risks in diabetics. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Forty-five-year-old Jane was diagnosed with kidney failure a decade ago. She underwent dialysis for a while before getting a kidney transplant.

Jane's condition was caused by diabetes. However, the kidney problem would have been prevented had the diabetes been diagnosed and treated in good time.

Just as is the case with many Kenyans, Jane showed up at the hospital when it was too late and the condition had already caused damage to her body organs.

Indeed, government statistics from the Kenya Stepwise survey for Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) risk factors indicate that close to 90 (87.8) percent of the country's population has never been tested for raised blood sugar, which is used to detect diabetes.

Diabetes is a disease that occurs when people have high blood sugar levels in their bodies. It occurs in two forms namely: Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 diabetes.


People with type 1 diabetes are unable to produce a hormone known as insulin, which is responsible for regulating blood sugar levels in the body.

This type cannot be prevented, as its cause is still unknown. Those with the condition are usually born with it.

Type 2 diabetes on the other hand is largely preventable as its main cause is obesity resulting from inactivity and unhealthy diets.

People suffering from the condition are usually able to produce sufficient insulin.

Fat accumulation in the stomach brought about by obesity prevents the insulin from working effectively.

As such, type 2 diabetes, which was the cause of Jane's predicament, can be largely prevented through the consumption of healthy foods and enhanced physical activity.

This is especially important during this time of Covid-19 as diabetes increases the risk of severe illness and death from the coronavirus disease among those infected.

Diabetes can also cause limb amputations, vision problems and an increased risk of heart disease or stroke.

With regards to health diets, two new studies published in the British Medical Journal have found that higher consumption of fruit, vegetables and whole grain foods is associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The findings suggest that even a modest increase in consumption of these foods as part of a healthy diet could help prevent the condition.

During the initial study, which was conducted in the United Kingdom, researchers assessed the levels of vitamin C and carotenoids (pigments found in colourful fruits and vegetables) in the blood of research participants.

Their findings showed that higher quantities of both nutrients were associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Specifically, the researchers noted that every 66 grams per day increase in total fruit and vegetable intake was associated with a 25 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. A majority of Kenyans have failed to meet these requirements.

Statistics from the Ministry of Health NCDs risk factors survey show that 94 percent of Kenyans consume less than five servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

In the second study, researchers in the United States examined associations between total and individual whole grain food intake and type 2 diabetes.

Their findings were based on 158,259 women and 36,525 men who were free from diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

The results showed that participants in the highest total whole grain consumption group had a 29 percent lower rate of type 2 diabetes compared with those in the lowest category.

For individual whole grain foods, the researchers found that consuming one or more servings a day of whole grain cold breakfast cereal or dark bread was associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes (19 percent and 21 percent, respectively) compared with consuming less than one serving a month.

Other sources of whole grain include: brown rice, millet, sorghum, bread or chapati made from whole-wheat flour, and ugali made from unprocessed maize flour.

They are rich in fibre and other important nutrients such as B vitamins, iron, folate, selenium, potassium and magnesium that are good immune boosters.

Due to their high fibre content, whole-grain food products make people to feel full or satisfied, which make it easier to maintain a healthy body weight. This lowers the risk of diabetes as well as heart disease and certain cancers.

Both research teams note that their findings provide further support for current recommendations to increase fruit, vegetable and whole grain consumption as part of a healthy diet to prevent type 2 diabetes.