Could The Mediterranean Diet Prevent Diabetes?

Could the Mediterranean diet actually help prevent diabetes?  The Mediterranean Diet, which is rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, healthy fats from nuts and olive oil, with moderate amounts of fish, low-fat dairy, and wine, and minimal red meat and processed meats, is considered to be an especially healthy eating plan.

Previous research conducted on newly diagnosed diabetic participants showed the diet did indeed help control the sugar spikes. The previous study found the mediterranean diet eating diabetics had better glycemic control. Furthermore, they had less needs for diabetes medications when adhering to the Mediterranean diet as opposed to a simple low-fat diet.

Recently, a team of researchers in Spain conducted a study using data from a large clinical trial to determine the effects of the Mediterranean Diet on preventing the onset of Type-2 diabetes. Participants were followed for an average of 4 years. Upon completion of the study, 54 participants had developed diabetes–but the split varied significantly among groups.  The researchers found that the risk of developing diabetes was reduced by 52% among both groups of people who followed the Mediterranean Diet plans compared to the low-fat control group. In analyzing diet adherence, the researchers further noted that the closer an individual followed the Med-Diet plan, the lower their risk of developing diabetes.  Interestingly, the weight of all participants did not change significantly throughout the study, nor did it vary significantly among the three groups.

The participants were divided in one of three groups: adherence to the Med-Diet with 1 liter per week of extra virgin olive oil, adherence to the Med-Diet with 1 oz per day of mixed nuts, or a standard low-fat diet as a control. No calorie restrictions were imposed on any of the groups. The two Med-Diet groups were instructed to increase fruit and vegetable intake, decrease meat intake, stay away from refined sweets and unhealthy fats such as butter, and consume red wine in moderation, if desired. The control group was given general instructions to lower overall fat intake. Baseline measurements and annual follow-up involved an oral glucose tolerance test and interviews to assess diet adherence.

Interestingly, the weight of all participants did not change significantly throughout the study, nor did it vary significantly among the three groups.

This study reinforces prior study results suggesting that the Mediterranean Diet – even without weight loss – may be protective against Type-2 diabetes. The researchers suggest that future studies should focus on the Med-Diet’s effects on younger people, and point out the possible benefits of the Mediterranean Diet as an effective intervention against complications of Type-2 diabetes.

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