Mediterranean diet & diabetes

Print edition : January 24, 2014

OLDER patients at high risk of heart disease who follow a Mediterranean diet rich in extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) do not need to restrict calories, increase exercise, or lose weight to prevent diabetes, according to an article being published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

Lifestyle interventions that induce weight loss have been shown to decrease incident diabetes to as low as 50 per cent. Researchers sought to determine whether following a Mediterranean diet could reduce incident diabetes without restrictions on calorie intake, increasing physical exercise, or losing weight. More than 3,500 older adults without diabetes and at high risk of cardiovascular disease were randomly assigned to a Mediterranean diet supplemented with either EVOO or mixed nuts or to a low-fat control diet. Those in the Mediterranean diet groups primarily ate fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fish. Their diets were rich in fats from EVOO or mixed nuts. Those in the control group were instructed to reduce dietary fat intake from all sources. Participants in all three groups were not required to restrict calorie intake or increase physical activity.

After four years, those who had followed the Mediterranean diets had a substantial reduction in their risk for type 2 diabetes compared with those in the control group. Researchers concluded that a Mediterranean diet may have public health implications for diabetes prevention because it is palatable and sustainable.

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