Olive oil-rich Med diet may protect against diabetes

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Diabetes, Obesity, Insulin, Nutrition

Consuming a traditional Mediterranean diet, rich in fruit,
vegetables, olive oil and fish, may reduce the risk of developing
diabetes by a whopping 83 per cent, says a new study.

Interestingly, people who adhered strictly to the diet were also found to have the highest prevalence of risk factors for diabetes such as older age, a family history of diabetes, and a higher proportion of ex-smokers. Despite being expected to have the higher incidence of diabetes, but this was not the case. "These higher risk participants with better adherence to the diet, however, had a lower risk of diabetes, suggesting that the diet might have a substantial potential for prevention,"​ wrote the authors from University of Navarra, the Hospital Virgen del Camino, and the Hospital of Navarra, all in Pamplona, Spain. The study is published on the British Medical Journal​'s website bmj.com. The Med diet, rich in cereals, fruits, legumes and whole grains, fish and olive oil, has been linked to longer life, less heart disease, and protection against some cancers. The diet's main nutritional components include beta-carotene, vitamin C, tocopherols, polyphenols, and essential minerals. "The findings are consistent with our previous report of an inverse association between a Mediterranean diet and the metabolic syndrome,"​ wrote the authors. "The metabolic syndrome is closely associated with a generalised metabolic disorder of insulin resistance, which is one of the underlying causes of type 2 diabetes. Therefore a high biological plausibility exists to support the causality of our findings,"​ they added. An estimated 19 million people are affected by diabetes in the EU 25, equal to four per cent of the total population. This figure is projected to increase to 26 million by 2030. In the US, there are over 20 million people with diabetes, equal to seven per cent of the population. The total costs are thought to be as much as $132 billion, with $92 billion being direct costs from medication, according to 2002 American Diabetes Association figures. Study details ​ The SUN study, (Seguimiento Universidad de Navarra, or the University of Navarra follow-up), involved 13,380 graduates with no history of diabetes. All the subjects completed a 136-item food frequency questionnaire to give the researchers vital information on their dietary habits. Follow-up questionnaires were completed every two years. Over 4.4 years of follow-up 33 new cases of type-2 diabetes were documented. On the ten-point scale of Mediterranean diet adherence (0 to 2 for low adherence, 3 to 6 for medium, and 7 to 9 for high adherence), the researchers found that people with the highest adherence were 83 per cent less likely to develop type-2 diabetes than those with the lowest adherence. Moreover, a two-point increase on the adherence scale was associated with a 35 per cent reduction in diabetes risk. Protective constituents ​ The Pamplona-based researchers identify virgin olive oil as a key constituent in the Mediterranean diet for diabetes protection, noting that studies have reported it may protect against insulin resistance and the metabolic syndrome. "Apart from olive oil, adherence to an overall Mediterranean-type food pattern is related to lower plasma concentrations of inflammatory markers and markers of endothelial dysfunction. These biomarkers are predictive of the future occurrence of type 2 diabetes,"​ they stated. The high intake of fruit, vegetables, fibre, and fish may also have a significant role to play, but these are not generally considered by the authors. "The limited number of cases of diabetes and the possibility of under-reporting, however, requires that further larger cohorts and trials are needed to confirm our findings,"​ they concluded. Source: British Medical Journal ​Published online ahead of print, Online First​, doi:10.1136/bmj.39561.501007.BE "Adherence to Mediterranean diet and risk of developing diabetes: prospective cohort study" ​Authors: M.A. Martinez-Gonzalez, 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

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