According to a study published on bmj.com on May of 2008 — The traditional Mediterranean diet provides substantial protection against type 2 diabetes.
The Mediterreanean diet is very rich in, grains, fruits, nuts, vegetables, fish, and of course in olive oil. In addition it is low in meat, dairy products and alcohol.
Current evidence suggests that this kind of diet plays a very important protective role in cardiovascular disease, but little is known, till now, about its role on the risk of developing diabetes in healthy populations.
The SUN prospective cohort study included over 13000 graduates from the University of Navarra in Spain who had no history of diabetes and who were recruited between December 1999 and November 2007. Their diet and health were subsequently tracked and analyzed.
Initially, the participants completed questionnaire designed to measure the entire diet. In fact it was a 136 item food frequency questionaire which also included questions on the use of fats and oils, cooking methods and dietary supplements.
Every two years participants were sent follow-up questionnaires on diet, lifestyle, risk factors, and medical conditions. Some new cases of diabetes were confirmed through medical reports.
During the follow-up period (median 4.4 years) the researchers from the University of Navarra found that participants who followed more strictly the mediterranean diet had a lower risk of diabetes. More specifically, a high adherence to the diet was associated with an 83% lower risk of developing diabetes!
Interestingly, those participants who stuck closer and more strictly to the diet also had the highest prevalence of risk factors for diabetes such as older age, a family history of diabetes, and a higher proportion of ex-smokers. This group of participants was therefore expected to have a higher incidence of diabetes, in our surprise this was not the case. If contrast, say the authors, they had a lower risk of diabetes, assuming that the diet might provide substantial protection.
The major protective characteristics of the diet include a high intake of fibre and vegetable fat, a low intake of trans fatty acids, and a moderate intake of alcohol. Also the main alcohol source is the red wine with no reservatives. In addition, a key element of the diet is the abundant use of virgin oil for cooking, frying, spreading on bread, and dressing salads.
The authors conclude by calling for larger cohorts and trials to confirm their findings.