Mediterranean Diet May Protect Against Diabetes, Study Suggests

A large observational study is adding another feather to the cap of the Mediterranean diet.

The European study, published in the journal Diabetologia, shows that people who closely follow a Mediterranean diet -- which includes a lot of fish, fruit and vegetables and healthy fats from olive oil -- have a lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, compared with people who don't abide by the eating style.

In addition, researchers found that eating a low-glycemic load diet (which regulates carbohydrates intake based on its impact on blood sugar levels) also seems to lower diabetes risk. And eating a Mediterranean diet that was also low-glycemic seemed to confer the greatest benefit.

"The influence of the Mediterranean diet against diabetes risk was independent of GL [glycemic load] levels, and individuals with a high MDS [Mediterranean diet score] and a low GL tended to have the lowest diabetes risk," the researchers wrote in the study. "It is not difficult to envisage a low GL Mediterranean diet, since olive oil and vegetables dominate this diet and do not contribute, or contribute only marginally, to the GL."

The study was based on dietary and diabetes data from 22,295 people who were followed for more than 11 years. Over that time period, 2,330 people developed Type 2 diabetes.

Researchers found that people who most faithfully abided by the Mediterranean diet were 12 percent less likely to develop diabetes than those who followed it the least; conversely, people who consumed the most carbs in their diets had a 21 percent higher risk of developing diabetes over the study period than those who consumed the fewest carbs.

Researchers also found that "the combined protection imparted by a diet with a high MDS [Mediterranean diet score] and a low GI [glycemic index] was about 20 percent," they wrote in the study.

Eating a Mediterranean diet isn't just good for your metabolic risks -- past studies have also linked the style of eating with lower risks of heart disease and stroke, and improved brain functioning and food security.

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