Biologically active ingredients in functional foods are linked to physiological health benefits for preventing and treating chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes.
Regular consumption of such foods may enhance antioxidant, anti-cholesterol and anti-inflammatory activity, as well as greater insulin sensitivity, all of which are considered crucial in the prevention and management of type 2 diabetes.
In particular, foods central to the Mediterranean diet — such as oily fish, olive oil, fruits, tree nuts, and vegetables — could act as a model for functional foods, thanks to their natural nutraceutical content. This includes flavonoids, polyphenols, sterols, alkaloids, pigments, terpenoids, and unsaturated fatty acids.
Furthermore, polyphenols in the Mediterranean diet and certain herbs (such as coffee, green and black teas, and yerba mate) have exhibited clinically significant benefits on microvascular and metabolic function, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity, and cholesterol- and fasting glucose-lowering in high-risk type 2 diabetes patients.
In addition, functional food benefits can now be detected using what is known as 'omics' biological profiling of a person’s molecular genetics, transcriptomics, proteomics, and metabolomics. However, this is "under-investigated in multi-component interventions".
Based on this, researchers at Kuwait's Dasman Diabetes Institute, the UK's Edge Hill University, the University of Mauritius, and Saudi Arabia's King Abdulaziz University conducted a review to assess the efficacy of personalised prevention and management plan for type 2 diabetes, and what biological and behavioural models, as well as functional foods, should be involved in such an approach.
They focused on physiological responses that could help prevent and treat type two diabetes when patients consume functional foods, either on their own or as part of an intervention.
They then wrote that components of the Mediterranean diet could be "effectively adopted as part of an individualised and localised multi-component model, integrating behavioural, biochemical and physiological strategies".
They added that polyphenols, especially flavonoids found in certain functional foods, had a "promising" anti-diabetic effect, and that there was clinical evidence to show that herbal teas, such as green and black teas and yerba maté, as well as coffee, could have protective effects — both direct and indirect — on those with type 2 diabetes and related cardiovascular conditions.
But while each individual component of the Mediterranean diet possesses health benefits, the researchers said the studies reviewed suggested implementing a combination of the components to better prevent diabetes.
They also stated that nutritional strategies "focusing on modulating T2DM and their comorbidities warrant further investigation", with an emphasis on the bioactivity and bioavailability of their metabolites.
More research on multi-component models
The researchers wrote that more studies are needed to determine how functional foods like herbs might enhance the positive metabolic outcomes of bariatric surgery, especially with regards to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.
They concluded that "integrating a multi-component approach — clinical, behavioural and educational —to prevent and manage type 2 diabetes through conventional and alternative medicine requires further scientific evidence to support it and to minimise risk of drug-herb interaction.
"Furthermore, understanding local availability, differences in use to treat or manage diseases, culture and practices, should all be considered in a multi-component behavioural model."
"Functional Foods and Lifestyle Approaches for Diabetes Prevention and Management"
Authors: Ahmad Alkhatib, et al.