Meditterranean diet good for Type 2 diabetes

By Jasminee Sahoye


The number of Canadians with diabetes is growing and for people of Caribbean heritage, who are of African and Indian origins, they are considered high risk for getting the disease.

The foods and the amount we eat play a big part in developing the disease.  Dietitians will say, cut down on the white bread and rice, ground provision and sweets.

Now a new research shows that a Mediterranean-style diet and diets low in available carbohydrates can offer protection against type 2 diabetes.

The study is published in Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD).

The authors, Dr Carlo La Vecchia, Mario Negri Institute of Pharmacological Research, Milan, Italy, and colleagues studied Greeks,  who are part of the ongoing European Prospective Investigation into cancer and nutrition, led by Dr. Antonia Trichopoulou, from the University of Athens.

A total of 22,295 participants were followed up for just over 11 years and 2,330 cases of type 2 diabetes were recorded.  The participants completed a questionnaire, and the researchers constructed a 10-point Mediterranean diet score (MDS) and a similar scale to measure the available carbohydrate (glycaemic load GL) of the diet, to assess dietary habits.

It was discovered that people with an MDS of over 6 were 12% less likely to develop diabetes than those with the lowest MDS of 3 or under. Patients with the highest available carbohydrate in their diet were 21% more likely to develop diabetes than those with the lowest. A high MDS combined with low available carbohydrate reduced the chances of developing diabetes by 20% as compared with a diet low in MDS and high in GL.

“The role of the Mediterranean diet in weight control is still controversial, and in most studies from Mediterranean countries the adherence to the Mediterranean diet was unrelated to overweight. This suggests that the protection of the Mediterranean diet against diabetes is not through weight control, but through several dietary characteristics of the Mediterranean diet. However, this issue is difficult to address in cohort studies because of the lack of information on weight changes during follow-up that are rarely recorded, ” the authors stated.

They point out that a particular feature of the Mediterranean diet is the use of extra virgin olive oil which leads to a high ratio of monounsaturated to saturated fatty acids. But again research here has been conflicting.

According to Wikipedia, the principal aspects of a Mediterranean diet include “proportionally high consumption of olive oil, legumes, unrefined cereals, fruits and vegetables, moderate to high consumption of fish, moderate consumption of dairy products (mostly of cheese and yogurt) moderate wine consumption, and low consumption of meat and meat products.”

The research authors say: “High GL diet leads to rapid rises in blood glucose and insulin levels. The chronically increased insulin demand may eventually result in pancreatic β cell failure and, as a consequence, impaired glucose tolerance and increased insulin resistance, which is a predictor of diabetes. A high dietary GL has also been unfavourably related to glycaemic control in individuals with diabetes.”

Therefore, the researchers conclude: “A low GL diet that also adequately adheres to the principles of the traditional Mediterranean diet may reduce the incidence of type 2 diabetes.”