A new study published in the journal Diabetologia suggests that a Mediterranean diet that is low in certain carbohydrates can protect from diabetes.
Researchers from Italy, Greece, U.S. and Canada analyzed data from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC), a study that investigates the relationships between diet, nutritional status, lifestyle and environmental factors and the incidence of cancer and other chronic diseases, with participants in over 10 European countries.
The researchers assessed information from over 22,000 Greek participants who were followed for an average of eleven years. Scientists measured adherence to the Mediterranean diet and glycemic load (GL). Glycemic load is a measurement of the amount of carbohydrate in a food and its impact on blood sugar levels. Foods such as vegetables, fats (such as olive oil), high fiber fruit and beans have low glycemic loads while processed foods, such as white bread, cakes, processed breakfast cereals have a high glycemic load.
The results showed that independently a Mediterranean diet reduced the incidence of diabetes. When coupled with a low glycemic load, the protection was greater, reaching 20 percent less risk compared to those who had a low compliance to the Mediterranean diet and high glycemic load diet.
As the researchers note, it is not difficult to envision a low glycemic load Mediterranean diet, as the diet is dominated by vegetables, olive oil, beans and fruit. The model of the Greek-Mediterranean diet that these participants were most likely following, would be rich in vegetable main course dishes, consisting of vegetables cooked in olive oil resulting a moderate calorie dish with a low glycemic load score. One could modify the diet to contain fewer carbohydrates by reducing bread or pasta to achieve a lower glycemic load, while maintaining the basic components of the Mediterranean diet.