A Spanish university study has found that a traditional Mediterranean diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, and fish may reduce the risk of acquiring type 2 diabetes by 83 percent.
One interesting outcome of the study was the finding that people at high risk of developing diabetes could substantially lower their risk by following the diet. High-risk factors included old age, a family history of the disease, and a former smoking habit.
Researchers also found that the diet decreased the incidence of metabolic syndrome in the patient populations they studied. (Metabolic syndrome symptoms include increased resistance to insulin, a precursor to the onset of full-blown diabetes.)
The study, conducted by the University of Navarra, tracked 13,380 graduates who had no history of diabetes. All started the study by completing a questionnaire on how frequently they ate 136 different food items. They completed follow-up questionnaires every two years.
Over a 4.4-year span, 33 graduates developed type 2. Researchers developed a 10-point scale that measured adherence to the diet, with 0 indicating no adherence and 10 indicating the highest level of adherence. People with the highest adherence were 83 percent less likely to develop disease than those with the lowest adherence.
The Spanish scientists said that olive oil was one of the crucial constituents in the Mediterranean diet, citing other studies that suggest it protects against insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome.