November is American and National Diabetes month, a disease which affects nearly 26 million people in the U.S. and is estimated to cost the country as much as $245 billion. Now, hot off the presses, a November 2013 study by Italian, U.S. and Greek researchers demonstrates nearly a 20% reduced risk for developing this debilitating disease if your diet resembles that of a low GI version of the Mediterranean diet.

The 2013 study appeared in the journal Diabetologia and analyzed the data obtained from a Greek population as part of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study. A total of 22,295 participants were enrolled between 1994 and 1999 and monitored for an average of 11.3 years. All participants completed a validated food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) to assess diet.  Conformity to the traditional Mediterranean diet, defined as containing vegetables, legumes, fruit and nuts, cereals, fish and seafood, as well as a high ratio of mono-unsaturated to saturated fats and moderate alcohol, was assessed by calculation of a Mediterranean Diet Score (MDS) ranging from 0 (minimal adherence) to 9 (maximal adherence). Points were accumulated for above average consumption of these foods. Points were also accumulated for below average consumption of dairy, meat and meat products. Participants’ incidence of type 2 diabetes was identified from medical records. During the study 2,330 incidences of type 2 diabetes were recorded. A statistical analysis demonstrated that those in the top 25% (MDS = 6 or higher) of conformity enjoyed an 18% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those in the bottom 25% (MDS = 3 or lower) of conformity.

The take home message here is to “Go Mediterranean” by upping your fruit and vegetable consumption, getting most of your protein from fish and legumes and making sure your fats are the healthy kind while enjoying the occasional glass or two of red wine if you like. Not surprising advice since vegetables, fish, healthy fats and  nuts are so very good for you. Plus, see our article from last month’s DNN for other potential diabetes fighting weapons to include in your health arsenal.

Published November 1, 2013