Mediterranean diet may reduce risk of diabetes

PHILADELPHIA — Older patients at high risk for heart disease who follow a Mediterranean diet rich in extra-virgin olive oil do not need to restrict calories, increase exercise or lose weight to prevent diabetes, according to an article being published in Annals of Internal Medicine that was released Monday. 

Lifestyle interventions that induce weight loss have been shown to decrease incident diabetes to as low as 50%. Researchers sought to determine if following a Mediterranean diet could reduce incident diabetes without counting calories, increasing physical exercise or losing weight. More than 3,500 older adults without diabetes and at high risk for cardiovascular disease were randomly assigned to a Mediterranean diet supplemented with either EVOO or mixed nuts or to a low-fat control diet.  

Participants in the Mediterranean diet groups primarily ate fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fish. Their diets were rich in fats from EVOO or mixed nuts. Participants in the control group were instructed to reduce dietary fat intake from all sources. Dieticians provided periodic training sessions to help patients adhere to their diets and participants in all three groups were not required to restrict calorie intake or increase physical activity. 

After four years, participants following the Mediterranean diets had a substantial reduction in the risk for Type 2 diabetes compared to those in the control group. Researchers conclude that a Mediterranean diet may have public health implications for diabetes prevention because it is palatable and sustainable.

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