The Mediterranean (MED) diet—rich in olive oil, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds—is a recommended way to reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and other adverse health outcomes.
But exactly how and why the MED diet lowers the risk for type 2 diabetes has remained unclear.
In a new study, researchers examined more than 25,000 participants in the Women’s Health Study.
They found that women who adhered to a more MED-like diet had a 30% lower rate of type 2 diabetes than women who did not.
The research was conducted by a team from Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
In the study, the team assigned each participant a MED diet intake score from 0 to 9, with points assigned for a higher intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and fish, moderate intake of alcohol, and lower intake of red meat or processed meat.
These included lipoproteins—molecules that pack and transport fats and proteins—and measures of insulin resistance, a condition in which muscle, liver, and fat cells do not respond to normal amounts of insulin. Insulin resistance is often a precursor to diabetes.
They measured a range of biomarkers, including traditional ones such as cholesterol, and more specialized ones that can only be detected using nucleic magnetic resonance.
The findings support the idea that by improving their diet, people can improve their future risk of type 2 diabetes, particularly if they are overweight or have obesity.
Most of this reduced risk linked to the Mediterranean diet and type 2 diabetes was explained through the biomarkers related to insulin resistance, adiposity, lipoprotein metabolism, and inflammation, the team says.
understanding may have important downstream consequences for the primary prevention of diabetes disease.
One author of the study is Samia Mora, MD, MHS.
The study is published in JAMA Network Open.
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