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Mediterranean Diet Alone May Lower Diabetes Risk

Key ingredient of study: use of extra-virgin olive oil, not calorie counting or exercise

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Those at risk for type 2 diabetes, Laine said, "should work hard to maintain a healthy body weight." However, even if they are not able to do that successfully, she said the new study suggests -- but does not prove -- that adding olive oil to their diet may provide some benefit.

The oil's anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, among other factors, may explain the link, the researchers said. However, while the finding shows an association between long-term olive oil consumption and reduced risk of diabetes, it doesn't establish a cause-and-effect relationship.

People with diabetes, which has more than doubled in incidence worldwide in the past 30 years, have trouble controlling their blood sugar because they don't produce the hormone insulin or don't use it properly. The disease can lead to blindness, kidney failure and amputation.

The new study "demonstrates the power of plant foods and an overall healthful diet," said Connie Diekman, director of university nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis.

"The important message from this study is the value of a Mediterranean diet plan to satiety and overall health," Diekman said. "Inclusion of plant foods, including nuts, along with the use of olive oil in place of solid fats provides a wider variety of phytonutrients, which promote health, aid metabolism and provide feelings of fullness, all important aspects of weight control."

The research was funded by the Spanish government's Institute of Health Carlos III. Industry sources provided the olive oil and nuts.

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