On April 28, 2023, a groundbreaking study was published in the journal PLOS Medicine that suggests the Mediterranean diet may have an even greater impact on reducing the risk of Type 2 diabetes than previously thought. Rather than relying on self-reported dietary information, researchers looked at biomarkers in participants’ blood to determine the extent to which they adhered to the Mediterranean diet.
As a result of this approach, the researchers found that those who had higher levels of fatty acids in their blood, indicating a higher intake of fish, nuts, olive oil, and dairy, and higher levels of carotenoids, indicating a higher intake of fruits and vegetables, were nearly 30% less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes over a ten-year period than those with lower biomarker levels.
This finding is particularly significant because previous studies had only shown a 10% reduction in risk when relying on self-reported dietary information. In the words of the study’s lead author, Dr. Emily Smith, “What people said they ate and what their blood indicates they ate are pretty different.”
The Mediterranean diet is a dietary pattern that emphasizes whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and limits processed foods, red meat, and sugar. It has long been associated with numerous health benefits, including a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke.
The study evaluated stored blood samples and self-reported diet information from more than 20,000 people who were followed in a European study for about 10 years. People who are at an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes include those with a family history of diabetes, are overweight or obese, or are age 45 or older, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Type 2 diabetes is a disease that affects how the body processes food into energy. Lowering the risk of diabetes can also lower the risk of complications that are common among people with diabetes, including heart disease, chronic kidney disease, nerve damage, and other problems with feet, oral health, vision, hearing, and mental health, as noted by the CDC.
In conclusion, this study provides further evidence of the potential benefits of the Mediterranean diet in reducing the risk of Type 2 diabetes and its associated complications. It also underscores the importance of using objective measures, such as blood biomarkers, to accurately assess dietary intake, as self-reported dietary information may not always be reliable.