Plant compounds in herbs, berries and red wine may protect against diabetes, say scientists.

High intakes of the ­flavonoids are linked to lower insulin resistance and better control of blood sugar, a study has shown. Both effects help stave off the onset of Type 2 diabetes, which affects more than two million people in the UK.

Researchers looked at the dietary flavonoid consumption of almost 2000 healthy women volunteers. Glucose regulation, insulin resistance - an inability to respond properly to the hormone insulin - and inflammation markers were also assessed from blood samples.

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Two specific types of flavonoid, flavones and anthocyanins, were both found to have benefits that could lessen diabetes risk.

Flavones are found in herbs and some vegetables, such as parsley, thyme and celery, while anthocyanins are abundant in dark coloured berries and fruits, as well as red wine.

Study leader Professor Aedin Cassidy, from the University of East Anglia, said: "This is one of the first large-scale human studies to look at how these powerful bioactive compounds might reduce the risk of diabetes.

"Laboratory studies have shown these types of foods might modulate blood glucose regulation - affecting the risk of Type 2 diabetes.

"But until now little has been known about how habitual intakes might affect insulin resistance, blood glucose regulation and inflammation in humans."It was published in the Journal of Nutrition.