Mediterranean Diet prevents Type 2 Diabetes

A new study, published in the British Medical Journal, concluded that people who eat a Mediterranean style diet are 83% less likely than the rest of the general population to develop type 2 diabetes.

83% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes. 83% less likely to develop the following complications:

Complications of Type 2 Diabetes

The Mayo Clinic says that type 2 diabetes can be easy to ignore, especially in the early stages when you’re feeling fine. But diabetes affects many major organs, including your heart, blood vessels, nerves, eyes and kidneys. Keeping your blood sugar level close to normal most of the time can dramatically reduce the risk of these complications.

Short-term complications

Short-term complications of type 2 diabetes require immediate care. Left untreated, these conditions can cause seizures and loss of consciousness (coma).

  • High blood sugar (hyperglycemia). Your blood sugar level can rise for many reasons, including eating too much, being sick or not taking enough glucose-lowering medication. Check your blood sugar level often, and watch for signs and symptoms of high blood sugar — frequent urination, increased thirst, dry mouth, blurred vision, fatigue and nausea. If you have hyperglycemia, you’ll need to adjust your meal plan, medications or both. If your blood sugar level is persistently above 250 mg/dL, consult your doctor right away or seek emergency care. You might have diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome, a life-threatening condition in which sky-high blood sugar causes blood to become thick and syrupy.
  • Increased ketones in your urine (diabetic ketoacidosis). If your cells are starved for energy, your body may begin to break down fat. This produces toxic acids known as ketones. Watch for loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fever, stomach pain and a sweet, fruity smell on your breath — especially if your blood sugar level has been consistently higher than 250 mg/dL. You can check your urine for excess ketones with an over-the-counter ketones test kit. If you have excess ketones in your urine, consult your doctor right away or seek emergency care.
  • Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). If your blood sugar level drops below your target range, it’s known as low blood sugar. Your blood sugar level can drop for many reasons, including skipping a meal and getting more physical activity than normal. However, low blood sugar is most likely if you take glucose-lowering medications that promote the secretion of insulin or if you’re on insulin therapy. Check your blood sugar level regularly, and watch for early signs and symptoms of low blood sugar — sweating, shakiness, weakness, hunger, dizziness and nausea. Later signs and symptoms include slurred speech, drowsiness and confusion.If you develop hypoglycemia during the night, you might wake with sweat-soaked pajamas or a headache. Thanks to a natural rebound effect, nighttime hypoglycemia might cause an unusually high blood sugar reading first thing in the morning.If you have signs or symptoms of low blood sugar, eat or drink something that will quickly raise your blood sugar level — fruit juice, glucose tablets, hard candy, regular (not diet) soda or another source of sugar. If you lose consciousness, a family member or close contact may need to give you an emergency injection of glucagon, a hormone that stimulates the release of sugar into the blood.

Long-term complications

Long-term complications of diabetes develop gradually. The earlier you develop type 2 diabetes — and the less controlled your blood sugar — the higher the risk of complications. Eventually, diabetes complications may be disabling or even life-threatening.

  • Heart and blood vessel disease. Diabetes dramatically increases the risk of various cardiovascular problems, including coronary artery disease with chest pain (angina), heart attack, stroke, narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis) and high blood pressure. In fact, according to a 2007 study, the risk of stroke more than doubles within the first five years of being treated for type 2 diabetes. About 75 percent of people who have diabetes die of some type of heart or blood vessel disease, according to the American Heart Association.
  • Nerve damage (neuropathy). Excess sugar can injure the walls of the tiny blood vessels (capillaries) that nourish your nerves, especially in the legs. This can cause tingling, numbness, burning or pain that usually begins at the tips of the toes or fingers and over a period of months or years gradually spreads upward. Left untreated, you could lose all sense of feeling in the affected limbs. Damage to the nerves that control digestion can cause problems with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation. For men, erectile dysfunction may be an issue.
  • Kidney damage (nephropathy). The kidneys contain millions of tiny blood vessel clusters that filter waste from your blood. Diabetes can damage this delicate filtering system. Severe damage can lead to kidney failure or irreversible end-stage kidney disease, requiring dialysis or a kidney transplant.
  • Eye damage. Diabetes can damage the blood vessels of the retina (diabetic retinopathy), potentially leading to blindness. Diabetes also increases the risk of other serious vision conditions, such as cataracts and glaucoma.
  • Foot damage. Nerve damage in the feet or poor blood flow to the feet increases the risk of various foot complications. Left untreated, cuts and blisters can become serious infections. Severe damage might require toe, foot or even leg amputation.
  • Skin and mouth conditions. Diabetes may leave you more susceptible to skin problems, including bacterial infections, fungal infections and itching. Gum infections also may be a concern, especially if you have a history of poor dental hygiene.
  • Osteoporosis. Diabetes may lead to lower than normal bone mineral density, increasing your risk of osteoporosis.
  • Alzheimer’s disease. Type 2 diabetes may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The poorer your blood sugar control, the greater the risk. So what connects the two conditions? One theory is that cardiovascular problems caused by diabetes could contribute to dementia by blocking blood flow to the brain or causing strokes. Other possibilities are that too much insulin in the blood leads to brain-damaging inflammation, or lack of insulin in the brain deprives brain cells of glucose.

Okay; now that I have scared the @#$%&* out of you, here is the good news.

No one needs to suffer from type 2 diabetes.

The researchers in this study followed a group 13,000 former students of the University of Navarra in Spain for 4 years. Keep in mind that these students weren’t all kids with youthful metabolisms; the average age was 38 years old.

The researchers tracked their dietary habits and general health. The volunteers initially completed a food questionnaire to measure their customary diet.

Over the course of the 4 year study, the participants who strictly adhered to a Mediterranean style diet of lots of vegetables,fish and healthy fats (olive oil predominantly), while being low in red meat, dairy products and alcohol had the lowest odds of contracting type 2 diabetes.

Perhaps most exciting was the conclusion that even the high risk individuals in the study, (older people, smokers and those individuals with a family history of diabetes) were able to reduce their chances of developing type 2 diabetes – as long as they stuck with the mediterranean diet.

For further info on this subject, see the links below:

Here, here and here.


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  1. Before I begin, keep in mind that I am a personal trainer, not a medical doctor or specialist in the area of type 2 diabetes mellitus.

    With that being said, there has been a lot of research showing how a Mediterranean style diet can prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes AND help reduce the symptoms of T2DM if you already have it.

    Here are some abstracts from studies with people already suffering from T2DM

    These are just 3 out of hundreds of studies out there. The jist of it is that fruits, veg, healthy oils (monounsaturated olive oil, oil from fatty fish) may or may not magically reverse T2DM. But, at the very least, they seem to allow your body time to reverse the damage that the standard western diet had inflicted upon it.

    How about trying it out for a month?

    Dump the processed foods. Eat a Med. style diet, and bump up your exercise with 60 min of walking every night.

    You don’t have access to any fancy-schmancy blood tests, but you can monitor your body weight, take a few body measurements (Tape measure at your chest {landmark via nipples}, waist{landmark via belly button} and hips {no landmark – use the widest point}) and measure your blood pressure at one of those drug store blood pressure machines. – use the same machine for the before and after measurement – it may be off, but it should be off by the same amount, so at least we will be comparing apples to apples.

    Be your own scientist.

    What do you have to lose.

    If you do this, I would love to hear the results. If you want to write about your experience, I would love to post it on my blog.

    Contact me if you have any questions

  2. Unfortunately, there are very few published clinical studies looking at use of the Mediterranean diet in type 2 diabetics. The best one I found involved post-menopausal women. Here’s the link:

    DR, the study you mention is really eye-opening. I believe they are the first researchers to show that the Mediterranean diet prevents some cases of type 2 diabetes in healthy people. Thanks for spreading the news.

    The Spanish study referred to another one that suggested prevention of diabetes in heart attack patients who followed the Mediterranean diet. I blogged about that study recently:


  3. Thanks for the comment Doc,

    For a way of eating that has been around for a long, long time and has been proven anecdotally and scientifically to be effective, it doesn’t get much respect.

    I think they need to hire a slick marketing company to “sexy-up” their image.

    Maybe a young Sophia Loren pictured on the cover or something like that.

    ooops, sorry.

    Way too sarcastic for this early in the morning.

    Thanks again for the comment

  4. D.R. Very interesting post on the Mediterranean diet in preventing type 2 diabetes. I wrote a recent post on a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (Shai et al, 2008 Dietary Intervention Randomized Controlled Trial) which suggests that the Mediterranean diet is also the best diet for people who already have diabetes.

  5. There are so many published studies that show all the health benefits from Mediterranean Diet and teach us how big and positive effect this eating plan can have on our health, and still Mediterranean Diet continues to float under the radar. While other diets with sometimes questionable results and benefits continue to be in the spotlight.

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