By: Brenda Neugent
While experts have long said a Mediterranean diet is beneficial for both a healthy heart and healthy weight, a recent study affirms research suggesting that it may also lower the risk of developing diabetes.
According to analysis of several different studies, those who eat a Mediterranean diet – one rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, olive oil, legumes and fish – are 21 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, compared to those in dietary control groups.
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) has previously said that a Mediterranean diet could be a good alternative to a low-fat diet when it comes to diabetes prevention.
Researchers said the reduced risk was even more pronounced for those at a high risk of cardiovascular disease.
“Adherence to the Mediterranean diet may prevent the development of diabetes irrespective of age, sex, race or culture,” said Demosthenes Panagiotakos, Ph.D., a professor at Harokopio University, in Athens, Greece, who headed the analysis. “This diet has a beneficial effect, even in high risk groups, and speaks to the fact that it is never too late to start eating a healthy diet.”
Researchers looked at 19 studies that followed more than 162,000 participants for an average of 5.5 years. Participants spanned the globe, which made factors including genetics, environmental issues, lifestyle and stress less impactful in the final data.
The study is particularly important, researchers said, given the steadily rising numbers of those being diagnosed with adult-onset diabetes every year.
“Diabetes is an ongoing epidemic and its relation to obesity, especially in the Westernized populations, is well known. We have to do something to prevent diabetes and changing our diet may be an effective treatment,” Panagiotakos said.
The research was presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 63rd annual Scientific Session.
Researchers previously said that a Mediterranean diet could help control the symptoms of type 2 diabetes in those who had already been diagnosed.
A study that appeared late last year in the New England Journal of Medicine said that those who ate a handful of nuts a day – a key component of the Mediterranean diet – had a 20 percent less likely risk of dying from common ailments that those who never ate nuts.
It echoes another study – this one appearing in the Annals of Internal Medicine in January of this year – that found that those who followed a Mediterranean diet were as much as 40 percent less likely to develop diabetes.