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January 2014

Mediterranean Diet May Reduce Diabetes Risk

A new study suggests that maintaining a Mediterranean diet rich in extra-virgin olive oil may reduce the risk of diabetes in people with high heart disease risk.

The Mediterranean diet is based on the healthy eating and lifestyle habits of the people living in southern Italy, the Greek island of Crete and other areas of Greece in the early 1960s. The diet is rich in heart-healthy fiber and nutrients including omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. The diet generally includes: fruits, vegetables and unsaturated "good" fats, particularly olive oil. Olive oil has been associated with benefits such as lower blood pressure and a lower risk for heart disease.

In a recent study, participants who did not have diabetes but were at high heart disease risk were randomly assigned to receive one of three diets. The first followed a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil, the second followed a Mediterranean diet supplemented with nuts and the third followed a low-fat control diet. The main outcome measure evaluated was the onset of diabetes.

Throughout the follow-up period, 80 participants in the Mediterranean diet plus olive oil group, 92 participants in the Mediterranean diet plus nuts group, and 101 participants in the control group developed diabetes. The researchers found that when compared to the control diet, participants maintaining the Mediterranean diet supplemented with olive oil had a 40 percent reduced risk of developing diabetes. Those maintaining the Mediterranean diet supplemented with nuts had an 18 percent reduced risk.

The authors concluded that a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil may reduce the risk of diabetes for people with a high risk of heart disease. Additional, well-designed clinical trials are needed to further evaluate these findings.

For more information about the Mediterranean diet, please visit Natural Standard's Health & Wellness Database.


  1. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. 
  2. Salas-Salvadó J, Bulló M, EstruchR, et al. Prevention of Diabetes With Mediterranean Diets: A Subgroup Analysis of a Randomized Trial. Ann Intern Med. 2014;160(1):1-10-10. doi:10.7326/M13-1725

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