Mediterranean diet may slow type 2 diabetes progression

April 23, 2014

A study published in Diabetes Care shows that for people recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, eating a Mediterranean diet—focusing on vegetables, fish, and whole grains—may slow progression of the disease more than restricting fat.

The researchers conducted a randomized controlled trial of 215 participants diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. They divided them into two groups—108 were assigned to follow a Mediterranean diet and 107 were told to follow a low-fat diet.

Both diets were designed to help prevent type 2 diabetes from getting worse and to keep blood sugar under control without medication for as long as possible. On both diets, women aimed to consume 1,500 calories per day and men aimed for 1,800 per day. Monthly sessions with nutritionists helped them keep less than half of their calories coming from carbohydrates and at least 30% of calories from fat, mainly olive oil. The low-fat diet restricted fatty or sugary snacks, limiting fats to less than 30% of daily calorie intake.

The researchers followed the participants for more than eight years, and found that those following a Mediterranean diet went significantly longer before needing diabetes medication and more of them had their diabetes go into remission, compared to those on a low-fat diet. Diabetes “remission,” in which blood sugar levels appear healthy with no signs of diabetes, was rare overall but slightly more common in the Mediterranean group.