A Mediterranean style diet that is high in fruit, nuts, legumes, and whole grains may reduce an individuals risk of developing type-2 diabetes by more than 80% according to new research published in May this year.
The study, conducted by Spanish researchers and published in the British Medical Journal, followed 13,380 Spanish university graduates for an average of 4.4 years. The graduates adherence to a Mediterranean diet was calculated by giving each participant a score of zero or one for their consumption of nine components of a Mediterranean diet. These components were high intake of fish, low intake of meat and meat products, high intake of legumes, high intake of nuts, high intake of grains, high intake of fruits, moderate alcohol consumption, moderate intake of dairy products, and a high ratio of mono-unsaturated to saturated fat in their diets. The scores were added together to give a total between zero and nine with high scores indicating closer adherence to a Mediterranean diet.
During the study 103 of the participants developed type-2 diabetes. The researchers found that those who closely followed the Mediterranean diet (scores between 7 and 9) were 83% less likely to develop type-2 diabetes compared to those with low adherence to a Mediterranean diet (scores between 0 and 2). Moderate adherence to a Mediterranean diet (scores between 3 and 6) was associated with a 59% reduction in diabetes risk compared to low adherence.
Interestingly those who followed the Mediterranean diet were heavier, more likely to smoke, were older, and had a higher prevalence of diabetes in the family compared to those who did not follow a Mediterranean diet. Despite having many diabetes risk factors, these individuals were still much less likely to develop type-2 diabetes suggesting diet is a very important risk factor in determining diabetes likelihood.
It is believed that the high levels of mono-unsaturated fats found in Mediterranean diets may improve insulin sensitivity and reduce blood lipid levels which in turn reduces the probability of a person developing type-2 diabetes. Mediterranean diets also tend to have lower amounts of red and processed meats than western diets. Previous studies have found a link between red and processed meat consumption and higher rates of type-2 diabetes.
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