Mediterranean Diet Helps Prevent Diabetes

November 14th is World Diabetes Day, and in recognition of this day several posts this week will discuss diabetes. Today’s post will examine the effects of a particular diet on the development of diabetes.

Statistics from the CDC paint a grim picture. Over 9% of Americans have diabetes. About 1 1/2 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes each year. What is even more disturbing is that it is estimated that over 84 million have prediabetes, which puts them at much higher risk for developing full-blown diabetes. It is estimated that about 70% of those with prediabetes eventually develop diabetes. The direct and indirect costs of diabetes in 2012 were estimated at $245 billion. Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the U.S.

More evidence of the benefits of a Mediterranean-style diet was demonstrated in a study performed primarily in Spain. In this particular study, results showed a significant protective effect from developing diabetes by following a Mediterranean-type diet, supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil and mixed nuts. The study was performed in a high risk group of men and women with risk factors such as history of smoking, high blood pressure, overweight, and high cholesterol.

Approximately 3500 subjects were enrolled in the study, and were followed for an average of 4 years. A 40% relative risk reduction in diabetes was found in the Mediterranean diet group supplemented with olive oil, while a 18% diabetes risk reduction was found in the Mediterranean group supplemented with mixed nuts. 

The Mediterranean Diet concept stems from the traditional dietary practices of Greece, Southern Italy, Portugal and Spain. The diet consists of moderate to high consumption of fish, high consumption of olive oil, fruits and vegetables, and moderate consumption of dairy products. What is missing from the Mediterranean diet is also important. Food items such as red and processed meat, refined cereals, fast foods and sodas are very limited in a Mediterranean diet.

Given the significant and often overwhelming health problems associated with diabetes, perhaps more serious consideration should be given to simple dietary modifications as a strategy for prevention.

“Insulin is not a cure for diabetes, it is a treatment”.–  Frederick Grant Banting

(Source- Annals of Internal Medicine: 2014; 160)

This blog is a review of published medical and scientific literature, and should only be used for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical or health advice, nor does it create a physician-patient relationship with anyone. Discuss any health concerns with your personal physician.


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