In recent months, FoodFacts.com has followed a number of different findings regarding nutrition and how it relates to Type-2 Diabetes. We know that this common form of diabetes affects our population in great numbers, and has major implications for the health and well being of so many. Today we wanted to share with you a recent study that indicates that beta carotene might actually help protect those with a predisposition to the disease.
We already understand that beta carotene (a member of the carotenoid group of fat-soluble compounds) is converted in the body to Vitamin A (retinol) and protects eye health, immune system health as well as supporting skin and mucus membranes. Beta Carotene is found in a number of fruits, grains, oil and vegetables – most especially carrots.
Coming out of the Stanford University of Medicine, the research used “big data” to observe how gene variants linked with a higher risk for Type 2 Diabetes along with blood levels of substances that had already been related to Type 2 Diabetes risk.
“Type-2 diabetes affects about 15 percent of the world’s population, and the numbers are increasing,” according to the study’s senior author Dr. Atul Butte, an associate professor of systems medicine in pediatrics at Stanford University Medical Center. He also explained that “Government health authorities estimate that one-third of all children born in the United States since the year 2000 will get this disease at some point in their lives, possibly knocking decades off their life expectancies.”
The risk of diabetes was influenced by beta carotene and gamma tocopherol’s interaction with the common gene variant and the researchers then became interested in studying a specific protein – SLC30A4 and its impact on the disease. Researchers believe that this protein is abundant in certain cells in the pancreas which produce insulin and helps the cells import zinc. . Zinc causes a release of insulin in the the pancreas to the muscles, liver and fat tissue. This offsets the buildup of glucose in the blood, preventing the development of Type 2 Diabetes.
It was noted that while there are many genetic risk factors for Type 2 Diabetes, none of those alone or even together can account for the prevalence of Type 2 Diabetes in the worldwide population.
Researchers are planning to take this work further through additional studies involving lab mice fed purified beta carotene and gamma tocopherol. This could help scientists understand how these substances impact the production of the SLC30A4 protein.
FoodFacts.com will be keeping an eye out for these future studies. In the meantime, let’s all eat our carrots anyway. There’s so much we already know they do for our health … this might just be another added benefit!