A new study out of Spain has found that dia­bet­ics fol­low­ing a Mediterranean diet sup­ple­mented with extra vir­gin olive oil reduced the need to begin tak­ing new-onset glu­cose-low­er­ing med­ica­tions, com­pared with a con­trol group.

In a major clin­i­cal study, the University of the Basque Country and Spain’s Biomedical Research Center Consortium (Ciber) fol­lowed 3,230 dia­bet­ics for slightly more than three years.

A Mediterranean diet with extra vir­gin olive oil may be a use­ful eat­ing plan in the man­age­ment of per­sons with type 2 dia­betes.- Javier Basterra, co-author of the study

The dia­bet­ics were split into three groups. Participants in the first group fol­lowed a Mediterranean diet in which the main source of fat was extra vir­gin olive oil. Participants in the sec­ond group fol­lowed a Mediterranean diet in which the main fat source came from nuts. The con­trol group fol­lowed a low-fat diet.

At the end of the 3.2‑year trial, par­tic­i­pants in the first group reduced the need to begin using dia­betes med­ica­tions by 22 per­cent, com­pared with the con­trol group.

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“Participants with dia­betes who fol­lowed an energy-unre­stricted Mediterranean diet with extra vir­gin olive oil had sig­nif­i­cantly lower rates of ini­ti­a­tion of glu­cose-low­er­ing med­ica­tions,” Javier Basterra, a researcher at the University of Navarra and co-author of the study, told Olive Oil Times.

“So a Mediterranean diet with extra vir­gin olive oil may be a use­ful eat­ing plan in the man­age­ment of per­sons with type 2 dia­betes,” he added.

However, par­tic­i­pants in the sec­ond group expe­ri­enced no sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence in the need to begin using dia­betes med­ica­tions. The researchers attrib­uted this dif­fer­ence between the two vari­a­tions of the Mediterranean diet to each one’s abil­ity to con­trol lev­els of blood glu­cose in the body.

“The lower need for med­ica­tion [either oral or injectable] with the Mediterranean diet pat­tern and extra vir­gin olive oil prob­a­bly reflects the supe­rior glycemic con­trol that was obtained with this diet dur­ing the long fol­low-up of the study,” Fernando Arós, a researcher at Ciber and one of the study’s authors, said.

Glycemic con­trol refers to the body’s abil­ity to keep blood glu­cose lev­els at the con­cen­tra­tion level typ­i­cal of a per­son with­out dia­betes, which is between 70 and 130 mil­ligrams per deciliter. Basterra attrib­uted the dif­fer­ence in lev­els of glycemic con­trol among the three diets to their nutri­ent com­po­si­tions.

“It is pos­si­ble that there are dif­fer­ences between extra vir­gin olive oil and nuts,” Basterra said. “At the end of the trial, 22 per­cent of total calo­ries in the MedDiet group were from extra vir­gin olive oil, whereas only eight per­cent of calo­ries were from nuts in the MedDiet and nuts group.”

“The dif­fer­ences found with the low-fat diet were also likely due to the over­all com­po­si­tion of the dietary pat­tern,” he added.

Other fac­tors that deter­mine the need for the use of dia­betes med­ica­tions, such as age, gen­der, level of phys­i­cal fit­ness and pre-exist­ing car­dio­vas­cu­lar con­di­tions, were all con­trolled for in the study. Adherence to the diet was also mea­sured sev­eral times through­out the study by both self-report­ing and blood tests.

This care­ful mon­i­tor­ing of adher­ence and other fac­tors related to dia­betes allowed the researchers to con­fi­dently link the impor­tance of the Mediterranean diet and extra vir­gin olive oil con­sump­tion to a reduced need to begin tak­ing dia­betes med­ica­tion.

“The dietary pat­tern has undoubt­edly been the deter­mi­nant,” Arós said.

Previous stud­ies have found that con­sum­ing the Mediterranean diet sup­ple­mented with extra vir­gin olive oil low­ers the risk of devel­op­ing type 2 dia­betes and reduces the inci­dence of ges­ta­tional dia­betes in preg­nant women.

Basterra said that par­tic­i­pants in the trial would con­tinue to be mon­i­tored in order to deter­mine whether adher­ence to the Mediterranean diet sup­ple­mented with extra vir­gin olive oil has any other long-term health impacts on dia­bet­ics.




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