(NaturalNews) A genetic predisposition to Type II diabetes is found among more than half of the U.S. population. But if this form of the disease "runs" in your family, you can lower your risk by losing weight and exercising. However, Stanford University School of Medicine investigators have found a specific nutrient -- beta carotene -- may also impact the genetic risk and could offer protection from the disease.
The genomes of 50 to 60 percent of Americans carries two copies of a gene variant that raises the risk of Type II diabetes slightly but significantly. For the new study, just published in Human Genetics, the Stanford scientists searched for interactions between blood levels of various substances and these gene variants. People with a double dose of one of the predisposing-to-diabetes genes were found to have a statistically significant, inverse association of beta carotene blood levels to their Type II diabetes risk.
Simply put, the higher the level of beta carotene, a red-orange pigment abundant in plants and fruits that is related to vitamin A, the lower the risk of developing Type II diabetes.
The researchers also found a positive association between one form of vitamin E, gamma tocopherol, and a risk of Type II diabetes. Although you can expect some news reports will declare this means vitamin E is a cause of diabetes, let's look at exactly at what the Stanford scientists actually found. Only one form of vitamin E (which happens to be the major form found in the typical American diet of fast, processed foods), gamma tocopherol, was associated with a possible increased risk of Type II diabetes in people with high blood levels of the vitamin. Gamma tocopherol is found in processed foods like margarine and in soybean and corn oils.
Natural health advocates have long advised that mixed tocopherols are the healthy form of vitamin E most beneficial to the body. In fact, the Stanford study shows that blood levels of alpha tocopherol, another form of vitamin E that predominates in most supplements, produced no Type II diabetes-promoting interaction with the predisposing gene variant.
"Type II diabetes affects about 15 percent of the world's population, and the numbers are increasing," Atul Butte, MD, PhD, associate professor of systems medicine in pediatrics and senior author of the new study said in a media statement. "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."
With the disease reaching epidemic proportions, obviously more research is needed into the protection from Type II diabetes specific nutrients provide. But it is clearly a sensible idea to eat more beta carotene-rich foods like carrots, beets and sweet potatoes, and/or to take beta carotene supplements.
In addition, as Natural News has covered before, along with exercise and weight control, scientists have found several other nutritional strategies can also help prevent and/or treat Type II diabetes. For example, research published in the journal Nature strongly indicates an imbalance of "good" versus "bad" bacteria in the intestinal tract appears to trigger Type II diabetes and taking probiotics may help prevent the disease. And Harvard School of Public Health investigators published their discovery in the Archives of Internal Medicine which reveals that eating two or more servings of brown rice per week slashes the risk of Type II diabetes.
About the author: Sherry Baker is a widely published writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Health, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Yoga Journal, Optometry, Atlanta, Arthritis Today, Natural Healing Newsletter, OMNI, UCLA''''s "Healthy Years" newsletter, Mount Sinai School of Medicine''''s "Focus on Health Aging" newsletter, the Cleveland Clinic''''s "Men''''s Health Advisor" newsletter and many others.