The Mediterranean diet has long been praised for its health benefits. The eating style emphasizes vegetables, healthy fats, whole grains, fruits, and lean protein such as fish, poultry, beans, and eggs. It’s been linked to heart health and has recently been discovered as a means of lowering diabetes risk.
According to a 2020 study published in JAMA Network Open, women who followed the Mediterranean diet had a 30% lower rate of type 2 diabetes compared to their peers. Experts say that the eating style is linked to improvement in several key biomarkers, including insulin resistance, body mass index (BMI), HDL cholesterol, and inflammation. The study was a 20-year-plus follow-up to research that first enrolled participants in 1992 and 1993. The participants following the Mediterranean diet ate mostly vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits, and moderate fish and dairy. Red meat and processed foods were limited or avoided. Additionally, they would drink red wine in moderation.
Other research has also pointed to the benefits of the Mediterranean diet in the past. For example, a meta-analysis published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology linked the eating style to a reduced risk of metabolic syndrome, which is the umbrella term for a group of conditions that increases the risk of heart disease and diabetes, including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, abdominal obesity, and insulin resistance.
Experts further investigated results from the 2020 study and believe that the Mediterranean diet is likely so effective because it replaces unhealthy foods with nutrient-rich options that don’t contribute to insulin resistance or inflammation, and in fact may improve insulin resistance. The diet may also optimize beta-cell function, which produces and secrete insulin, the hormone responsible for blood sugar regulation.
According to the findings, the diet may be most beneficial for women who are overweight or obese. While there was a benefit for all individuals, type 2 diabetes is commonly linked with excess fat, which is likely why women with a BMI of 25 or higher appear to benefit the most from the Mediterranean diet.
Even if you aren’t ready to fully transition to an entirely new eating plan, the experts note that incorporating just some of the diet’s principles could deliver health benefits. Seemingly small changes such as adding more vegetables to your meals could have long-term benefits and are worth pursuing for the reduced risk of several diseases.
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