Do you follow a Mediterranean diet? That’s a diet primarily rich in olive oil, fruits, vegetables, legumes, some fish, nuts and seeds. There’s new evidence that following this type of menu plan may benefit some women by reducing their risk of type 2 diabetes.
Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts have been studying the outcomes of more than 25,000 participants in the Women’s Health Study (WHS), which is a longitudinal cohort study that followed female health professionals for more than 20 years.
They discovered that women who adhered to a more Mediterranean-like diet had a 30% lower rate of type 2 diabetes than women who did not.
While analyzing results over a long period of time is certainly a strength, the study is limited in the fact that all of the participants were female health professionals, and the majority were white and well educated. Another limitation is that researchers only measured biomarkers at the beginning of the study and not at the conclusion.
Women were enrolled in the study between 1992 and 1995 and data was collected through December 2017.
The goal of the study was to evaluate the effects of Vitamin E and low-dose aspirin on the risk of heart disease and cancer. But the study revealed even more since participants completed food frequency questionnaires about dietary intake and also answered questions about lifestyle, medical history, demographics and more. Blood samples were taken at the beginning of the study.
Among the 25,000 WHS participants, 2,307 developed type 2 diabetes.
Researchers say participants who had a higher Mediterranean diet intake at the beginning of the study developed diabetes at rates that were 30% lower than women who had a lower MED intake.
This decrease was seen only in participants who had a body mass index (BMI) greater than 25 (defined as overweight or obese) and not among women whose BMI was less than 25.
“Our findings support the idewa that by improving their diet, people can improve their future risk of type 2 diabetes, particularly if they are overweight or have obesity,” says Dr. Samia Mora of Brigham’s divisions of Preventive Medicine and Cardiovascular Medicine and an associate professor at Harvard Medical School.
“It’s important to note that many of these changes don’t happen right away,” she continues. “While metabolism can change over a short period of time, our study indicates that there are longer term changes happening that may provide protection over decades.”