- The Mediterranean diet is an eating pattern that involves consuming healthy fats, whole grains, and seafood in moderation while also cutting back on eating processed foods.
- Some research has found that this pattern of eating can have numerous health benefits for those with type 2 diabetes.
- A study has also found that following this eating pattern can potentially lower a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
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In recent years, some studies have suggested that following the Mediterranean diet may be beneficial to the health of individuals with type 2 diabetes, the most common form of diabetes. Studies have also suggested that the diet may be effective in lowering a person’s risk for developing the disease.
The Mediterranean diet is a popular way of eating that incorporates plant-based foods, whole grains, beans, legumes, fish, nuts, and limited amounts of red meat. Those who follow the diet are also encouraged to cut back on eating processed foods and drinking alcohol.
Here’s how following the Mediterranean diet could impact those with type 2 diabetes and those at risk of developing it.
Studies have found that following the Mediterranean diet can help individuals better manage their blood sugar levels
- Joshua Roberts/Reuters
According to a 2013 report by the American Diabetes Association, the low-fat, high-carbohydrate model of the Mediterranean eating pattern can be used to regulate the amount of sugar in a person’s blood, something that many individuals with diabetes must keep a close eye on.
In addition, a 2014 Diabetes Care study that had participants with type 2 diabetes found that more individuals who followed a low-carbohydrate Mediterranean diet saw a greater drop in their A1C levels (the amount of glycated hemoglobin, or hemoglobin that’s bound to glucose, in their blood). Those following the Mediterranean diet also delayed their need for diabetes medication more often than those who followed a low-fat diet.
That study also found that more individuals who were following the Mediterranean diet had their diabetes go into remission than those who were following a low-fat diet. That being said, this study was conducted on overweight individuals within a certain age range so more research may be needed to see if the findings apply to a broader selection of people.
In addition, the Mediterranean diet is known for being a high-fiber eating pattern. This can be beneficial to individuals with type 2 diabetes because consuming dietary fiber can slow the absorption of sugar from one’s bloodstream, thus helping to better regulate one’s blood sugar levels, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The Mediterranean diet can also be beneficial to one’s cardiovascular health
Those with diabetes are oftentimes more prone to having high cholesterol levels and are also at risk of developing cardiovascular issues, according to the American Heart Association. And so, following a heart-healthy diet may benefit those with type 2 diabetes.
“Part of the reason the Mediterranean diet is so effective for diabetes is that it serves as a substitution of heart-healthy fats for the saturated fat many Americans get from red meat, butter, and fried foods,” said registered dietitian nutritionist Lisa De Fazio.
Per De Fazio, the Mediterranean diet is high in monounsaturated fats, mostly from olive oil, and polyunsaturated fats from nuts and fish. Consuming these types of fats can reduce one’s risk of heart disease, according to the National Heart Foundation of Australia.
Overall, The American Diabetes Association has also labeled this eating pattern as one that ‘may help people living with or at risk for diabetes.‘
A 2011 report published by the American Diabetes Association found that there are “numerous benefits” for diabetes patients who follow a dietary pattern that is similar to the Mediterranean style of eating. These include an overall reduction in mortality rates associated with diabetes and a lower risk of developing certain cardiovascular conditions.
The Association noted that more research may be needed as many of the studies they reviewed were conducted in the Mediterranean region and it is unclear if mimicking the diet while residing in another region is just as effective.
Following the Mediterranean diet may also help individuals lower their risk of developing type 2 diabetes
A 2010 study published in the US National Library of Medicine also found that patients who do not yet have diabetes have may substantially lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes if they follow this diet.
This may have to do with the fact that those who follow the Mediterranean diet reduce their consumption of processed foods that can be high in sugar and carbohydrates.
Notably, the “steady consumption of inexpensive carbohydrate-rich processed foods” is a risk factor for increased blood sugar levels, which can lead to the development of type 2 diabetes, according to the 2018 American Diabetes Association’s Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes.