Mediterranean-Style Diet Lowers Risk of Diabetes

Mediterranean-Style Diet Lowers Risk of Diabetes
August 8, 2008
American Diabetes Association

What is the problem and what is known about it so far?

Many studies have shown that a Mediterranean-type dietÛone that is high in fiber, high in monounsaturated vegetable fats (especially olive oil), and low in saturated fat and trans fatty acidsÛplays a role in the prevention of heart and blood vessel disease. However, it is unclear whether following such a diet may also prevent diabetes.
Why did researchers do this particular study?

The researchers wanted to find out whether there is a relationship between following a Mediterranean-style diet and diabetes in healthy individuals.
Who was studied?

The study included 13,380 Spanish university graduates who did not have diabetes at the outset.
How was the study done?

Researchers assessed participants' dietary habits and followed them for more than 4 years to find out how many developed diabetes and to re-assess those who had developed the disease.
What did the researchers find?

Those who followed a Mediterranean diet had a lower risk for getting diabetes. Those who most closely followed the diet had the lowest risk for diabetes, and those who followed the diet least had the highest risk for developing diabetes. The group that most closely followed the diet had the lowest diabetes risk even though they had more risk factors than the other groups.
What were the limitations of the study?

The number of new cases of diabetes during this study was small, which could have affected the results and limited researchers' ability to find links between specific components of the diet and development of diabetes. Also, diabetes may have been underreported by participants. Participants in this study were all university graduates; therefore, the results may not hold true for less well-educated groups. Because the study group was from a Mediterranean country, even participants who followed the diet least closely still had more of a Mediterranean eating pattern than many people from other countries. Therefore, the results may not hold true in non-Mediterranean countries. In addition, there may have been some measurement errors in the study's information about participants' eating habits.
What are the implications of the study?

Even given the limitations listed above, this study suggests that a Mediterranean-style diet rich in olive oil, vegetables, fruits, nuts, cereals, legumes, and fish and relatively low in meat and dairy products may significantly reduce the risk of developing diabetes, even among people who have numerous risk factors for the disease.
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