The Mediterranean diet has been shown through many studies to have great health benefits. A new study published in Annals of Internal Medicine suggests another bonus: It may help people with type 2 diabetes decrease or eliminate their need for medications to control blood sugar levels.
Researchers compared 107 people on a low-fat diet to 108 on a Mediterranean diet, all of whom had type 2 diabetes. Both diets were low-calorie--women consumed 1,500 calories per day, and men consumed 1,800 calories per day.
The Mediterranean diet is rich in vegetables, whole grains, legumes, poultry, and fish, and is low in red meat. Participants following the Mediterranean diet were asked to limit carbohydrates to less than 50 percent of their calorie intake, but not fat. In fact, they were asked to consume at least 30 percent of their calories from fat, the main source of which was two or three tablespoons of olive oil daily. Olive oil is a monounsaturated fat, which is a healthy type of fat.
On the contrary, the low-fat diet group was asked to limit their fat intake to no more than 30 percent of their daily calories, especially for saturated fat. They were also given no carbohydrate restrictions as long as most of them came from healthy, whole grain products.
After four years, 70 percent of those following a low-fat diet needed diabetes medications, whereas just 44 percent of those following a Mediterranean diet needed such drugs.
What's more, the Mediterranean diet appeared to do better at aiding weight loss and lowering risk factors for heart disease. Although both groups lost weight during the study, those in the Mediterranean diet group lost more than the low-fat group. Cholesterol levels and blood pressure readings were also more improved in the Mediterranean diet group.
The Mediterranean diet reduced the need for drug therapy even after researchers accounted for weight loss. This suggests that the effect of the diet goes beyond weight loss. The study authors speculate that the monounsaturated fatty acids from the olive oil are the reason--they are thought to increase insulin sensitivity.
There's no one-size-fits-all diet for people with diabetes. The right diet for you should fit with your schedule and eating habits. Work with your doctor or nutritionist to create a meal plan that works for you.
For information on how to make healthy food choices, visit the Web site of the American Diabetes Association.
(Our Organization is not responsible for the content of Internet sites.)
Several studies have suggested that olive oil, a major component in a Mediterranean diet, can help lower "bad" LDL cholesterol levels and boost "good" HDL cholesterol levels. Olive oil may even reduce blood pressure.
You can use olive oil to sauté meats and vegetables, in place of butter or margarine. Or make a citrus vinaigrette to dress a tossed salad. Use one part olive oil, one part vinegar, and one part orange juice.
Whether you choose a light, virgin, or extra-virgin olive oil is up to you. They all contain the same amount of fat and nutrients. The main difference among olive oils is their acid content, which affects flavor. Extra-virgin varieties are the lowest in acid and have the strongest flavor and aroma. On the other hand, light olive oils have more acid and a subtler flavor. Some people choose stronger-tasting extra-virgin oil because they can get more flavor from less oil.