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Med diet may battle diabetes

NEW YORK, Jan 7, (RTRS): Without cutting back on calories, adopting a Mediterranean diet rich in extra-virgin olive oil may protect people at high risk for heart disease against diabetes, a new study found. Researchers who analyzed data on more than 3,500 people at an increased risk for heart disease found those who were put on a Mediterranean diet were about 30 percent less likely to develop diabetes over the next four years, compared to those assigned to a general low-fat diet. “Randomized trials have shown that lifestyle interventions promoting weight loss can reduce the incidence of type 2 diabetes, however, whether dietary changes without calorie restriction or increased physical activity also protect from diabetes development has not been evaluated in the past,” Dr Jordi Salas-Salvado wrote to Reuters Health in an email. Salas-Salvado is the study’s lead author and a professor of nutrition at Rovira i Virgili University and the head of the Department of Nutrition at the Hospital de Sant Joan de Reus in Spain.

Previous research, including another study from Salas-Salvado and colleagues, suggested Mediterranean diets may be protective against diabetes (see Reuters Health story of Oct 14, 2010 here: reut.rs/1i7Rx5W. Mediterranean diets are generally high in vegetables, fiber-rich grains, legumes, fish and plant-based sources of unsaturated fat — particularly olive oil and nuts. They are low in red meat and high-fat dairy, prime sources of saturated fat. In addition to being touted as beneficial to people with heart disease, Mediterranean diets are believed to have components that reduce inflammation throughout the body and may have some impact on diabetes. Type 2 diabetes, sometimes referred to as adult-onset diabetes, is when the body’s cells are resistant to insulin or the body doesn’t make enough of the hormone, so glucose remains in the bloodstream and can climb to dangerously high levels. Insulin gives glucose — or blood sugar — access to the body’s cells to be used as fuel. For the new study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the researchers used data from an existing trial that compared the effectiveness of Mediterranean-style diets to a low-fat diet.

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