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The Mediterranean Diet and Diabetes Prevention

Can the Mediterranean Diet Help Prevent Diabetes?


Updated June 30, 2008

The Mediterranean diet (lots of olive oil, fruits, nuts, vegetables and fish with little meat, dairy or alcohol) has been known to be good for your heart. But what if this delicious and healthy diet also prevented type 2 diabetes (one of the fastest growing chronic illnesses in the world)? With one diet, you could reduce your risk of heart attack and of diabetes. Could that be true?

The Mediterranean Diet Prevents Type 2 Diabetes

Thirteen-thousand people (all graduates of the University of Navarra in Spain) joined a study between 1999 and 2007. Researchers tracked their eating habits every two years with a 136-question survey. People who ate close to the Mediterranean diet had an 83% reduction in the risk of developing type 2 diabetes over that period.

Why Does the Mediterranean Diet Work for Type 2 Diabetes Prevention?

Basically the Mediterranean diet focuses on vegetables prepared with healthy fats as well as eating lots of whole grains. Compared to a diet filled with sugar and highly refined grains (like the typical American diet), it takes longer for the body to process the foods in the Mediterranean diet. This increase in time helps blood sugar stay more even every day. What happens is that when too much sugar is in your blood (from those refined sugars and grains), your body releases insulin to tell your cells to take up more sugar. Overtime cells can become resistant to insulin (it takes more insulin to get the same result) resulting in diabetes. The Mediterranean diet may help prevent type 2 diabetes because the foods in it are digested more slowly and cause less of a spike in blood sugar on a daily basis.

More on the Mediterranean Diet


M Á Martínez-González, C de la Fuente-Arrillaga, J M Nunez-Cordoba, F J Basterra-Gortari, J J Beunza, Z Vazquez, S Benito, A Tortosa, M Bes-Rastrollo. Adherence to Mediterranean diet and risk of developing diabetes: prospective cohort study. BMJ 2008;336:1348-1351 (14 June).

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