Mediterranean-Style Diet May Reduce Risk Of Type 2 Diabetes
August 16, 2013

Mediterranean-Style Diet May Reduce Risk Of Type 2 Diabetes

Lawrence LeBlond for - Your Universe Online

Previous studies have shown a Mediterranean-style diet can lead to better health outcomes, including reducing risk of stroke and symptoms of depression.

A new study, led by Dr. Carlo La Vecchia of the Mario Negri Institute of Pharmacological Research in Italy, has furthered the evidence a Mediterranean diet can lead to better health by offering protection against Type 2 diabetes.

Publishing a paper in Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD), La Vecchia and colleagues reported in a study of 22,295 participants from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and nutrition (EPIC), followed for 11 years, 2,300 cases of Type 2 diabetes were recorded.

For the study, La Vecchia and colleagues assessed the dietary habits of all participants through questionnaires. The team then constructed a 10-point Mediterranean diet score (MDS) and similar scale to measure glycemic load (GL) of the diet.

They discovered people with an MDS over six were 12 percent less likely to develop diabetes than those with an MDS of three or lower. Those with the highest levels of GL in their diet were 21 percent more likely to develop diabetes than those with the lowest, they found. Furthermore, a high MDS combined with a low GL reduced the chances of developing the disease by 20 20 percent as compared to those with low MDS and high GL.

"The role of the Mediterranean diet in weight control is still controversial, and in most studies from Mediterranean countries the adherence to the Mediterranean diet was unrelated to overweight,” wrote the authors. “This suggests that the protection of the Mediterranean diet against diabetes is not through weight control, but through several dietary characteristics of the Mediterranean diet. However, this issue is difficult to address in cohort studies because of the lack of information on weight changes during follow-up that are rarely recorded."

The authors noted extra virgin olive oil may be the key ingredient in a Mediterranean diet that is attributing to lower risks of developing Type 2 diabetes. EV olive oil consumption leads to a high ratio of monounsaturated to saturated fatty acids. A recent review of dietary fat and diabetes suggests replacing saturated and trans fats with unsaturated fats has beneficial effects on insulin sensitivity and may well reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

However, some are skeptical of olive oil’s attribution to reduced diabetes risks based on previous research.

One randomized trial of high-cardiovascular individuals who were assigned to the Mediterranean diet supplemented with either extra virgin olive oil or nuts showed no difference in diabetes occurrence as compared to another group of individuals who were offered a low-fat diet.

Still, La Vecchia and his colleagues remain optimistic.

"High GL diet leads to rapid rises in blood glucose and insulin levels. The chronically increased insulin demand may eventually result in pancreatic β cell failure and, as a consequence, impaired glucose tolerance and increased insulin resistance, which is a predictor of diabetes. A high dietary GL has also been unfavorably related to glycemic control in individuals with diabetes," they wrote.

"A low GL diet that also adequately adheres to the principles of the traditional Mediterranean diet may reduce the incidence of type 2 diabetes," they concluded.