If you have diabetes, you may want to eat like a Greek. That’s because a new study indicated a Mediterranean-style diet – rich in vegetables, fruits, seafood, grains and olive oil – was the most effective at shedding pounds and lowering blood sugar among diabetics.
In addition to the Mediterranean diet, researchers found benefits in diets that were low in carbs and simple sugars or high in protein.
“If you look at different types of diets, these four can improve various aspects of diabetes control,” Olubukola Ajala, a diabetes specialist at Western Sussex Hospitals in the UK and lead author of the study, told Reuters Health.
About 24 million Americans have type 2 diabetes, the most common form of diabetes. Those who suffer from the disease have high levels of sugar, or glucose, in their blood. Type 2 diabetes can trigger heart, eye, kidney, and other health problems.
A good diet, exercise and a healthy weight can help manage type 2 diabetes. But it’s been unclear which diet is most effective in improving the body’s control of blood sugar while reducing the risk of complications from the disease. The latest study appeared in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Researchers analyzed results from 20 studies that looked at how seven types of diets affected type 2 diabetes. The researchers found that Mediterranean diets, low-carb diets, high-protein diets and low glycemic index diets – diets like South Beach, which are based on controlling blood sugar – all reduced the blood sugar levels of study participants.
After six months, the Mediterranean food regimen also led to an average weight loss of four pounds. The other diets didn’t have a “significant impact on weight,” according to Reuters Health.
“We were quite surprised by the Mediterranean diet in particular,” Ajala told Reuters Health. “I would have thought that low-carb would have been the best for losing weight, but Mediterranean seems to be better.”
The researchers did find that the low-carb, low glycemic index and Mediterranean diets were effective in improving the participants’ signs of good heart health, including higher good cholesterol and lower triglycerides.
“Low-carbohydrate, low-GI (glycemic index), Mediterranean, and high-protein diets are effective in improving various markers of cardiovascular risk in people with diabetes and should be considered in the overall strategy of diabetes management,” the study concluded.