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Search Health Information    Eat Like an Italian to Defeat Type 2
 Diabetes Center Feature Story

Eat Like an Italian to Defeat Type 2
In tests, plant-based Mediterranean diet reduces need for diabetes drugs

Eat Like an Italian to Defeat Type 2(HealthDay News) -- Eating like an Italian -- a real Italian that is, not the never-ending pasta-dish version of Italian that's so common in the United States -- can decrease the need for diabetes medications.

Rresearchers found that 44 percent of people following the so-called Mediterranean diet -- which emphasizes fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, fish and olive oil -- ended up needing diabetes drugs, whereas 70 percent of those following a low-fat diet needed the blood-sugar controlling medications.

"Eating Mediterranean prevented anti-hyperglycemic drug therapy in about one-third of patients," Dr. Dario Giugliano, a professor of endocrinology and metabolic diseases at the Second University of Naples in Italy and a co-author of the study, told HealthDay.

The Mediterranean diet is "a safe and tasty means to delay the introduction of anti-diabetic drug therapy in newly diagnosed type 2 diabetic people," Giugliano said.

In fact, most of the foods included in the Mediterranean diet are also recommended by the American Diabetes Association. It recommends eating plenty of vegetables and fruits in a variety of colors, with an emphasis on non-starchy vegetables, such as spinach, carrots and broccoli. The association also advises choosing whole-grain foods, such as brown rice and whole wheat breads and pastas. Choose fish, legumes and lean meats for protein sources, it suggests, and non-fat dairy products rather than their full-fat partners.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body no longer uses insulin effectively. Lifestyle changes, such as adjusting the diet and getting regular exercise, can often prevent the disease or delay its progression. Still, by 2025, experts predict, as many as 380 million people will have type 2 diabetes worldwide.

Giugliano's study, which was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, compared 107 people on a low-fat diet to 108 people on the Mediterranean diet. All of the study participants had recently been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

The study interventions ended after four years, and at that time, 26 percent fewer people on the Mediterranean diet than on the low-fat diet needed anti-diabetes medications. Those on the Mediterranean diet also lost slightly more weight.

"The Mediterranean diet has been associated with a number of healthful outcomes, including reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and mortality," Giugliano said. "Given that patients with type 2 diabetes still have a twofold risk of death as compared to the non-diabetic population, these potential benefits are intriguing."

Carolyn Grubb, a registered dietician and certified diabetes educator from the Scott & White Specialty Clinic in Texas told HealthDay that "everyone is looking for a magic bullet, but really the only magic bullet for diabetes is carbohydrate counting."

So what to do? "You need to find something you can live with and stay with." Grubb said. "There's no one-size-fits-all in diabetes. Most patients do best with as little change as possible."

On the Web

To learn more about the risk for type 2 diabetes, visit the U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease.

SOURCES: HealthDay News; Dario Giugliano, M.D., Ph.D., professor, endocrinology and metabolic diseases, Second University of Naples, Italy; Carolyn Grubb, R.D., certified diabetes educator, Scott & White Specialty Clinic, Round Rock, Texas; September 2009, Annals of Internal Medicine; American Diabetes Association (www.diabetes.org)

Serena Gordon

Publication Date: Sept. 30, 2010


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