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Aug 26, 2013

Mediterranean and Low-Carb Diet Reduces Diabetes Risk

Study finds that a low-carb, Mediterranean diet decreases risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

People who are overweight or obese have the most important risk factors for type 2 diabetes. These conditions are to blame for 80% of type 2 diabetes cases, and maintaining a healthy weight can drastically reduce risk for developing diabetes. But according to a recent study published in the medical journal Diabetologia, diet may also be one of our greatest weapons in helping prevent diabetes.

This study collected dietary information from nearly 22,300 adults in Greece to determine whether adherence to a Mediterranean diet and consumption of carbohydrates affected risk for type 2 diabetes. Each participant completed a detailed food questionnaire at the start of the study, reporting consumption of traditional “Mediterranean” foods (vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, cereals, fish, seafood, and olive oil) and consumption of foods with a high glycemic index, such as bread, pasta, and sweets.  Researchers then followed participants for more than 11 years to see how many individuals developed type 2 diabetes.

After analysis, researchers found that adults adhering to the Mediterranean diet had significantly lower risk of diabetes compared to those who did not adhere to this type of diet. In contrast, adults with high-carbohydrate diets had significantly higher risk of developing diabetes than those consuming fewer carbs. And overall, individuals adhering to both the Mediterranean diet and limiting carbohydrate intake had about 20% lower risk of developing diabetes than those who did not.

These findings add to a growing body of evidence suggesting that diet may play a key role in the prevention of type 2 diabetes. Although weight control is the most important risk factor for diabetes, it’s possible that improving one’s diet could help further reduce risk for developing the condition. The Mediterranean diet, which is naturally low in sugar and carbohydrates, already boasts a number of health benefits—like reducing risk for heart disease—and this study provides yet another reason to adopt this sensible type of diet.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is the Mediterranean diet?
  • The Mediterranean diet is a way of eating rather than a formal diet plan. It features foods eaten in Greece, Spain, southern Italy and France, and other countries that border the Mediterranean Sea.

    The Mediterranean diet emphasizes eating foods like fish, fruits, vegetables, beans, high-fiber breads and whole grains, and olive oil. Meat, cheese, and sweets are very limited. The recommended foods are rich with monounsaturated fats, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids.

    The Mediterranean diet is like other heart-healthy diets in that it recommends eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and high-fiber grains. But in the Mediterranean diet, an average of 35-to-40% of calories can come from fat. Most other heart-healthy guidelines recommend getting less than 35% of your calories from fat. The fats allowed in the Mediterranean diet are mainly from unsaturated oils, such as fish oils, olive oil, and certain nut or seed oils (such as canola, soybean, or flaxseed oil). These types of oils may have a protective effect on the heart.  For more information, read this overview of the Mediterranean diet.
  • What are the benefits of a Mediterranean diet?
  • A Mediterranean-style diet may help lower your risk for certain diseases, improve your mood, and boost your energy levels. It may also help keep your heart and brain healthy.

    The benefits of a Mediterranean-style diet reinforce the benefits of eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, high-fiber breads, whole grains, and healthy fats.

    For your heart and body, a Mediterranean-style diet may:

    • Prevent heart disease.
    • Lower the risk of a second heart attack.

    • Lower cholesterol.

    • Prevent type 2 diabetes.

    • Prevent metabolic syndrome.

    For your brain, a Mediterranean-style diet might help prevent:

    • Alzheimer's disease and other dementia.
    • Depression.
    • Parkinson's disease.

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