This diet may lower diabetes risk by 30%, Harvard study shows

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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 health problems.

But exactly how and why the MED diet lowers the risk for type 2 diabetes has remained unclear.

In a new study, researchers 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.

They examined outcomes for more than 25,000 participants in the Women’s Health Study, a longitudinal cohort study that followed female health professionals for more than 20 years.

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.

The research was conducted by a team from Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

The Women’s Health Study (WHS) was designed to evaluate the effects of vitamin E and low-dose aspirin on the risk of heart disease and cancer.

Additionally, participants were asked to complete food frequency questionnaires (FFQs) about dietary intake when the study began and answer other questions about lifestyle, medical history, demographics, and more.

In the study, the team examined the link p between the MED diet, type 2 diabetes, and biomarkers that might explain the connection.

To do so, they 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 a lower intake of red meat or processed meat.

The team found among the more than 25,000 participants in the WHS, 2,307 developed type 2 diabetes.

Participants with higher MED intake at the beginning of the study developed diabetes at rates that were 30% lower than participants with lower MED intake.

This effect was seen only among participants with a body mass index greater than 25 (overweight or obese range) and not among participants whose BMI was less than 25 (normal or underweight).

The team says most of this reduced risk associated with the Mediterranean diet and type 2 diabetes was explained through the biomarkers related to insulin resistance, adiposity, lipoprotein metabolism, and inflammation.

They emphasize that insight into the biology that explains how the Mediterranean diet may help protect against diabetes could be helpful in preventive medicine and for physicians speaking to patients about dietary changes.

One author of the study is Samia Mora, MD, MHS from the Brigham’s divisions of Preventive Medicine and Cardiovascular Medicine.

The study is published in JAMA Network Open.

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