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Mediterranean Diet May Protect Against Type 2 Diabetes – Study

More good news on the Mediterranean diet front. Sticking to a Mediterranean diet rich in extra virgin olive oil may lower the risk of diabetes – even when people don’t lose weight or exercise more, a new study suggests.

Courtesy of Oldways
Courtesy of Oldways

In addition to olive oil, the Mediterranean diet is rich in vegetables, fruit, nuts, whole grains, legumes, and seafood, with moderate alcohol consumption. In the study – published in Annals of Internal Medicine – researchers analyzed 3,541 men and women – aged 55 to 80 – who were diabetes free but at high risk for heart disease.

Participants were randomly assigned one of three eating regimens: a Mediterranean diet supplemented either with nearly two ounces of extra virgin olive oil, one supplemented with an ounce of mixed nuts a day, and one emphasizing lower fat consumption. Those advised to eat the low-fat diet were a control group.

Participants weren’t asked to cut their calorie intake or exercise more frequently.

Researchers found that participants assigned a Mediterranean diet were about 30 percent less likely to develop type 2 – or adult-onset – diabetes over the next four years, versus those who were put on a low-fat diet. Moreover, the risk for diabetes was 40 percent lower with the Mediterranean diet plus extra olive oil, and 18 percent lower with the diet with additional nuts.

Based on answers to questionnaires, participants in the Mediterranean diet groups were more likely to stick to their assigned diets than those in the low-fat control group, researchers said. Previous studies have shown that weight loss from a low-calorie diet plus exercise can prevent type 2 diabetes. But there’s been little information on whether dietary changes without calorie restrictions or greater physical activity can protect against the disease.

“The strength of our study is that it has a large number of participants with a long follow-up and a randomized design,” an author, Ramón Estruch, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Barcelona, told The New York Times. “The diet works by itself without considering physical activity or changes in weight, which were insignificant between groups.”

Previous research has suggested a Mediterranean diet may help prevent diabetes. In the latest study, the participants were all older and white. Researchers cautioned it was unclear whether the findings apply to other age groups or ethnicities. They also noted the control group had a greater withdrawal rate during follow-up than the two Mediterranean diet groups, which could have affected the findings.

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