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The More Closely A Mediterranean Diet Is Followed, The More It Lowers Risk of Diabetes

There is fairly widespread agreement about eight major characteristics that comprise the Mediterranean Diet. These eight characteristics include:

  1. high intake of vegetables
  2. high intake of fruits and nuts
  3. high intake of legumes/beans
  4. high intake of fish
  5. moderate intake of alcohol
  6. moderate intake of dairy products
  7. low intake of meat and meat products
  8. high ratio of monounsaturated-to-saturated fat in the overall diet

Researchers in Spain looked at all eight characteristics in the diets of 13,380 Spanish university graduates (with an average age range of 33-43 years) to see if close adherence to these dietary principles would help lower risk of diabetes. The researchers watched to see how many of the participants would develop diabetes over a 4.5 year period of time, and whether the Mediterranean Diet would help or hurt their chances.

The results were fascinating. Participants who followed the Mediterranean Diet most closely were by far the least likely to develop diabetes. While they also turned out to be the group that exercised most often-which also lowered their risk of diabetes-they were also older and had more risk factors for diabetes, including a greater tendency to smoke or be former smokers, a tendency to consume more calories, and a tendency to have higher blood pressure. Despite their higher risk in terms of these lifestyle and health-history factors, the combination of closer adherence to a Mediterranean Diet and more physical activity gave them a much lower overall risk of diabetes.

It's great to see research scientists taking such a broad look at eating and conducting research that points out how important it is to put all parts of the puzzle together and develop a truly healthy way of eating. Vegetables alone or fish alone were not sufficient to maximize the health benefits. Nor was low intake of meat, or high intake of olive oil (the main factor that provided participants with a high amount of monounsaturated fat). It took a combination of these dietary practices, plus others, to create the lowest risk of diabetes in these study participants.

This result could not be better matched to our approach at the World's Healthiest Foods, where we not only encourage a dietary approach that is very similar to the Mediterranean Diet approach, but where we also emphasize the importance of an overall diet plan in which there no "magic bullets" but rather a magical blend of more than 120 of the World's Healthiest Foods.