HealthDay News — Adherence to the Mediterranean diet is associated with a reduced risk of diabetes, findings from a meta-analysis of 19 studies that included more than 162,000 people in multiple countries.
Adhering to a Mediterranean diet correlated with a 21% reduced risk of diabetes compared with control dietary groups, Demosthenes Panagiotakos, PhD, from Harokopio University in Athens, Greece, and colleagues reported at the American College of Cardiology 2014 Scientific Sessions in Washington, D.C.
The reduced risk was even more pronounced in a subgroup of patients at high risk for cardiovascular disease — these patients were 27% less likely to develop diabetes compared with controls.
During the past 30 years global incidence of diabetes has doubled, and if left uncontrolled the disease can lead to complications including blindness, kidney failure, cardiovascular disease and amputations.
“Diabetes is an ongoing epidemic and its relation to obesity, especially in the Westernized populations, is well known. We have to do something to prevent diabetes and changing our diet may be an effective treatment,” Panagiotakos said in a press release.
The final analysis included 12 original observational studies and randomized controlled trials involving 140,001 participants spanning both European and non-European populations. Previous studies linking Mediterranean diet to reduced diabetes risk have been European-based, raising questions about possible confounding factors in these regions, including genetics, the environment, lifestyle and lower stress levels.
Diet was most often assessed by food frequency questionnaires and 24-hour or three-day recall. The control dietary groups varied but included diets common to the study location. Participants were followed for an average 5.5 years.
A highly protective combined effect was seen in both clinical trials and prospective studies, while the combined effect of cross-sectional studies was not significant.
“Adherence to the Mediterranean diet may prevent the development of diabetes irrespective of age, sex, race or culture,” Panagiotakos said. “This diet has a beneficial effect, even in high-risk groups, and speaks to the fact that it is never too late to start eating a healthy diet.”
Earlier research has shown that following the traditional Mediterranean diet is also linked to weight loss, reduced risk of heart disease and related death, as well as lower blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels.