Red raspberries offer significant benefits for people with diabetes (particularly type 2) and related health conditions, according to new research.

The study, conducted at the Center for Nutrition Research, Institute for Food Safety and Health, Illinois Institute of Technology, identifies anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative, and metabolism-stabilising properties found in red raspberry compounds.

“Turns out what is good for the heart, is also good for the brain,” said Britt M. Burton-Freeman, PhD, MS of the Center for Nutrition Research, Institute for Food Safety and Health, Illinois Institute of Technology, and lead author of the study. “That is what is particularly interesting about the research on red raspberries – their potential to help reduce factors contributing to metabolic syndrome which has implications for diabetes development and overall cardiovascular health.”

Red raspberries and type 2 diabetes

Several previous studies have found that raspberries – and a number of other berries – offer benefits to people with type 2 diabetes thanks to anthocyanins, a compound that is linked to:

  • Greater insulin sensitivity
  • Lower fasting plasma glucose levels
  • Lower levels of “bad” cholesterol and higher levels of “good” cholesterol
  • Lower triglyceride levels
  • Higher levels of adiponectin, a hormone that determines insulin sensitivity

“Cell culture models suggest that anthocyanins […] found in red raspberries can potentially stimulate glucose-mediated insulin secretion from pancreatic beta cells to overcome deficits in insulin secretion to manage blood glucose,” the researchers wrote.

How was this study conducted?

This study is a scientific review, which means the researchers brought together existing studies on the subject in order to draw wider conclusions. The studies used were conducted either on cellular models or mouse models.

The researchers found that red raspberries were beneficial to people with diabetes in both direct and indirect ways. Not only do they improve insulin sensitivity and lower fasting plasma glucose levels, they also reduce the risk of common diabetic complications such as heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Red raspberries were also found to combat obesity.

However, the authors point out that some of the findings should be interpreted with caution. Those studies conducted on cellular models tend to use very high concentrations of particular compounds found in red raspberries – much more than one would be able to get from their diet. However, most of the benefits identified by these studies were also observed in animal models.

The authors conclude: “Red raspberries contribute several valuable essential nutrients and other bioactive components to the diet. Among edible plant foods, they provide one of the highest amounts of dietary fibre per 100 kcal and are among the few plant foods that provide a source of […] anthocyanins […] the research provides […] data that suggest a key role for red raspberries in reducing the risk for metabolically-based chronic disease, particularly [heart disease], type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease, warranting follow-up research in humans.”

The research is published in Advances in Nutrition.