A new research has found that the Mediterranean diet can help lower the risk of type 2 diabetes. The study published in the Journal of PLOS Medicine involved data on 340,234 individuals living in eight European countries, who were either on a Mediterranean diet or a regular diet. The team of researchers looked at the levels of certain elements in participants’ blood, carotenoids and fatty acids, which helped them accurately determine who was following a Mediterranean diet. As per the analysis, the researchers found that higher adherence to the Mediterranean diet was associated with an 11% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
We spoke to Dr Anurag Aggarwal, Consultant-Internal Medicine, Fortis Escorts Hospital, Faridabad, to get some insights on the same.
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What Is The Mediterranean Diet?
The Mediterranean diet is a diet that encourages plant-based foods and healthy fats. This includes vegetables, whole grains, fruits, beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds. This diet also involves a moderate amount of fish, especially fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
Can The Mediterranean Diet Help Lower Risk Of Diabetes?
Dr Aggarwal said, “The Mediterranean diet has been found to have several benefits for individuals with type 2 diabetes. Numerous studies have demonstrated its positive impact on glycemic control, cardiovascular health, and overall well-being in people with type 2 diabetes.” He lists down some key benefits, including:
Improved glycemic control
The Mediterranean diet places emphasis on whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats while limiting refined carbohydrates and sugary foods. According to Dr Aggarwal, this dietary pattern has been shown to help control blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity, leading to better glycemic control in individuals with type 2 diabetes.
In addition, the Mediterranean diet is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, which is a significant concern for people with type 2 diabetes. The diet's emphasis on consuming monounsaturated fats from olive oil, nuts, and seeds, along with omega-3 fatty acids from fish, can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, improve HDL (good) cholesterol levels, and reduce inflammation, all of which contribute to a healthier cardiovascular profile, the doctor said.
The Mediterranean diet encourages the consumption of nutrient-rich , whole foods while discouraging processed and high-calorie foods. It promotes portion control and a balanced approach to eating, which can aid in weight management. For individuals with type 2 diabetes, who are overweight or obese, weight loss or weight maintenance is essential for managing their condition effectively.
Reduced risk of complications
This diet also focuses on antioxidant-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and olive oil, which may help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, known to play a role in the development of diabetes complications. As per Dr Aggarwal, by reducing these risk factors, the diet may help lower the risk of complications associated with type 2 diabetes, such as diabetic nephropathy (kidney disease), retinopathy (eye disease), and neuropathy (nerve damage).
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Sustainability and adherence
One of the strengths of the Mediterranean diet is its flexibility and palatability, making it easier for individuals to adopt and adhere to it for a long-term. Compliance and sustainability are critical factors in the success of any dietary intervention, and the Mediterranean diet's emphasis on delicious and varied whole foods can contribute to its long-term adoption, Dr Aggarwal said.
In general, the Mediterranean diet is said to have several benefits. Since it is so rich in nutrients, it is said to keep chronic health conditions at bay. However, if you’re a diabetes patient, it is best to consult your doctor before venturing into any kind of diet.