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Nutrition, Vitamins & Supplements for Seniors

Mediterranean Diet Reduces Risk of Diabetes for Seniors Without Exercise, Weight Loss

Seniors worried about type 2 diabetes have strong evidence they need to eat like those who live on the Mediterranean

Jan. 7, 2014 Type 2 diabetes is one of the diseases most feared by senior citizens, because it stays for a lifetime and also due to its reputation for leading its victims down a long path of other debilitating and deadly afflictions. A new research report seems to be emphatic in saying a Mediterranean diet is a solution for seniors, especially when rich in extra-virgin olive oil.

Older patients at high risk for heart disease who follow a Mediterranean diet rich in extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) do not need to restrict calories, increase exercise, or lose weight to prevent diabetes, according to the article published in Annals of Internal Medicine.


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The Spanish researchers many associated with other studies of the beneficial health effects of the Mediterranean diet - studied over 3,500 men and women between the ages of 55 and 80, who were at a high risk of heart disease but did not have diabetes.

They sought to determine if following a Mediterranean diet could reduce incident diabetes without counting calories, increasing physical exercise, or losing weight. Lifestyle interventions that induce weight loss have been shown to decrease incident diabetes to as low as 50 percent.

Those in the study were randomly assigned to one of three groups.

Group one was were restricted to a Mediterranean diet supplemented with high levels of extra-virgin olive oil.

A second group was also on the Mediterranean diet but their supplement was rich with mixed nuts.

The third group was assigned a low-fat control diet.

Participants in the Mediterranean diet groups primarily ate fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fish, plus their assigned supplements. Participants in the control group were instructed to reduce dietary fat intake from all sources.

Dieticians provided periodic training sessions to help patients adhere to their diets and participants in all three groups were not required to restrict calorie intake or increase physical activity.

After four years, participants following the Mediterranean diets had a substantial reduction in the risk for type 2 diabetes compared to those in the control group. Researchers conclude that a Mediterranean diet may have public health implications for diabetes prevention because it is palatable and sustainable.

But the big winner was the Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil. These seniors achieved a risk reduction of 40 percent. Those with mixed nuts as a supplement experienced a risk reduction of only 18 percent.

There have been a number of other studies resulting in conclusions that the Mediterranean diet helps prevent cardiovascular problems and diabetes.

A report published in the World Journal of Diabetes in 2010 concluded that effective lifestyle modifications including counseling on weight loss, adoption of a healthy dietary pattern like the Mediterranean diet, together with physical activity are the cornerstone in the prevention of type 2 diabetes.

The authors wrote, promoting adherence to the Mediterranean diet is of considerable public health importance as this dietary pattern, apart from its various health benefits, is tasty and easy to follow in the long term.

They wrote that genetic susceptibility and environmental influences seem to be the most important factors responsible for the development of diabetes mellitus. However, many studies indicate that obesity and physical inactivity may constitute the main reasons for the increase of diabetes.

Another study, published in 2007 in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, sought to to investigate the association of Mediterranean diet on clinical status of 150 elderly men and women. They studied men and women aged 65 to 100 from Cyprus. Their conclusion was that adherence to a Mediterranean diet is associated with reduced odds of having hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, diabetes and obesity among elderly people.

There is no single Mediterranean diet although the dietary patterns that prevail in the Mediterranean region have many common characteristics.

The Mediterranean diet was first described in the 1960s by Ancel Keys based on his observation of food habits of some populations in the Mediterranean region.

The Mediterranean dietary pattern emphasizes a consumption of fat primarily from foods high in monounsaturated fatty acids and mainly olive oil. It encourages daily consumption of fruits, vegetables, low fat dairy products and whole grains, weekly consumption of fish, poultry, tree nuts, legumes, monthly consumption of red meat, as well as a moderate consumption of alcohol, normally with meals but the proportions of macronutrients may vary. Recent studies have put emphasis on enriching this diet with extra-virgin olive oil.

For details on the Mediterranean Diet go to Oldways.


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