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Diabetes Risk Lowered By Mediterranean Diet

Update Date: Mar 27, 2014 06:09 PM EDT

Eating like a Spaniard or Italian may help lower your risk of diabetes, according to a new study.

Researchers found this is especially true in those with a high risk of cardiovascular disease.

The latest study is the first pooled analysis of studies evaluating the possible role of the Mediterranean diet on diabetes development. The findings revealed that eating a Mediterranean diet reduced the risk of developing diabetes by 21 percent overall and lowered the risk of those with a high risk for cardiovascular disease by 27 percent.

"Adherence to the Mediterranean diet may prevent the development of diabetes irrespective of age, sex, race or culture," Demosthenes Panagiotakos, Ph.D., professor at Harokopio University, Athens, Greece, and lead investigator of this meta-analysis, said in a news release. "This diet has a beneficial effect, even in high risk groups, and speaks to the fact that it is never too late to start eating a healthy diet."

The latest study involved data from 19 original research studies that followed more than 162,000 participants for an average of 5.5 years. They found that people who ate a diet rich with fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, fish and olive oil significantly reduces the risk of diabetes. Researchers said the findings held true even after accounting for factors like race, genetics, environment, lifestyle and stress levels.

"A meta-analysis captures the limitations of individual studies, and this type of study is important to help inform guidelines and evidence-based care," Panagiotakos said. "Diabetes is an ongoing epidemic and its relation to obesity, especially in the Westernized populations, is well known. We have to do something to prevent diabetes and changing our diet may be an effective treatment."

The findings were presented at the American College of Cardiology's 63rd Annual Scientific Session.

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