London, May 30 : A traditional Mediterranean diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, fibre and healthier fats could help protect against type 2 diabetes, according to a new study.
The Mediterreanean diet is rich in olive oil, grains, fruits, nuts, vegetables, and fish, but low in meat, dairy products and alcohol.
Researchers at the University of Navarra in northern Spain studied the eating habits of more than 14,000 Spanish volunteers over four years to see who developed the condition.
Their health and dietary habits were then tracked in detail over the following months and years.
After four years, 103 people became diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, mainly those who did not follow the basics of the Med diet.
Conversely, those who strictly adhered to the diet enjoyed a relative reduction of 83 percent in the risk of diabetes.
Interestingly, those participants who stuck strictly to the diet also had the highest prevalence of risk factors for diabetes such as older age, a family history of diabetes, and a higher proportion of ex-smokers.
This group of participants was therefore expected to have a higher incidence of diabetes, but this was not the case. If fact, say the authors, they had a lower risk of diabetes, suggesting that the diet might provide substantial protection.
The major protective characteristics of the diet include a high intake of fibre and vegetable fat, a low intake of trans fatty acids, and a moderate intake of alcohol. In addition, a key element of the diet is the abundant use of virgin oil for cooking, frying, spreading on bread, and dressing salads.
The authors conclude by calling for larger cohorts and trials to confirm their findings.
The study is published in the British Medical Journal.