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Could asparagus help fight type 2 diabetes?

22 November 2012

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Couple chopping vegetables

Asparagus is packed with essential vitamins and minerals, and is a great source of fibre, as well as having the added bonus of being delicious. And now, according to scientists in Pakistan, this ‘superfood’ could also help to fight type 2 diabetes. According to the researchers, eating asparagus regularly could help to control blood (glucose) sugar levels and boost insulin production in your body.

Christina Merryfield, Lead Dietitian, Bupa Cromwell Hospital, commented: “Insulin regulates the level of glucose in your blood. Type 2 diabetes develops when your body can’t produce enough insulin or if your body doesn’t respond to insulin as it should. Therefore, if asparagus can help to control blood glucose levels and boosts insulin production, it might be plausible that it could help fight type 2 diabetes. However, this study was carried out in rats, so we really can’t draw any firm conclusions from this research.

What we are sure about though is that eating a balanced diet rich in fruit and vegetables, which can include asparagus, is essential for good health.Christina Merryfield, Lead Dietitian, Bupa Cromwell Hospital.

“What we are sure about though is that eating a balanced diet rich in fruit and vegetables, which can include asparagus, is essential for good health. A healthy diet lowers your risk of developing many diseases, including high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Fruit and veg are packed with vitamins and minerals that your body needs to function. They even help to keep your skin, hair and nails looking healthy.”

If you have diabetes, whether it’s type 1 or 2, it’s even more important to eat a balanced diet. Include enough vegetables, wholegrains, fruits and healthy fats, and eat regularly throughout the day to stop your blood sugar levels dropping. Christina says: “If you have diabetes and are unsure what to eat or cook, it’s a great idea to invest in a diabetes cookbook. There is also lots of information online about what you should eat, as well as how to control your diabetes day to day.”

In the study, which was published in the British Journal of Nutrition, rats were induced into a diabetic state by injecting them with chemicals. The researchers then treated half of the rats with an asparagus extract and the other half with an antidiabetic drug. The rats were fed the asparagus extract for 28 days.

Produced by Alice Rossiter, Bupa Health Information Team.

Five reasons to enjoy asparagus

  • Asparagus contains high levels of vitamin A, folic acid and fibre, which scientists believe could help fight against cancer.
  • This delicious vegetable is low in saturated fat and very low in cholesterol, therefore, if you’re trying to lose excess weight, you can enjoy asparagus as part of your diet.
  • Asparagus is rich in soluble fibre. Soluble fibre has been shown to help reduce cholesterol levels, which in turn reduces your risk of heart disease. There is also some evidence to suggest that fibre can reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • Asparagus is a mild diuretic (increases the amount of urine you produce) and may help to detoxify your body, helping it to get rid of excess water and combat cystitis.
  • Some claim that asparagus is an aphrodisiac – whether it’s an old wives tale or not, it’s a perfect vegetable to accompany any meal you may cook for someone you love!

The study

Hafizura RM, Kabira N, Chishti S. Asparagus officinalis extract controls blood glucose by improving insulin secretion and β-cell function in streptozotocin-induced type 2 diabetic rats. British Journal of Nutrition 2012; 108(9):1586–1595. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0007114511007148