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Mediterranean Diet May Thwart Diabetes

Study Shows Benefits of a Diet That Favors Legumes, Grains, Fruits, Nuts, Vegetables, and Fish
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WebMD Health News

June 2, 2008 -- Eating a traditional Mediterranean diet may help prevent type 2 diabetes, a Spanish study shows.

The study included 13,380 Spanish university graduates (age range 20 to 90, average age 36) who were followed for about four years. They completed a dietary survey when the study started and follow-up questionnaires every two years after that.

The dietary survey included questions about foods, cooking methods, and olive oil consumption.
Based on the survey, participants were scored on a scale from 0 to 9 to show how closely they followed a Mediterranean diet. High scores meant they consumed a Mediterranean diet, meaning they favored legumes, grains, fruits, nuts, vegetables, fish, and moderate drinking and downplayed meat and dairy products.

A total of 33 people were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes during the follow-up period. Those who followed a Mediterranean diet were less likely to develop type 2 diabetes during the study.

For every two-point increase in the Mediterranean diet score, the odds of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes dropped by 35%.

The study doesn't prove that the Mediterranean diet prevented type 2 diabetes. But the results held regardless of other factors such as physical activity and family history of diabetes.

The researchers -- who included Miguel A. Martinez-Gonzalez, MD, PhD, MPH, epidemiology professor at Spain's University of Navarra -- report their findings in the advance online edition of BMJ.

Because few participants developed type 2 diabetes -- and because the study only included college graduates in Spain -- the researchers call for further studies to validate their findings.

(Have you tried the Mediterranean diet? Do you think it helps when you've already been diagnosed with diabetes? Share your thoughts on WebMD's Type 2 Diabetes Support Group board.)

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