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The Mediterranean Diet Can Stop Diabetes

June 21, 2008 | 83,487 views
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olive oil, olives, Mediterranean dietA Mediterranean-style diet rich in vegetables is already known to protect against heart disease. Now, researchers have found that it also appears to help ward off diabetes.

A four-year study of 13,000 people showed that those who stuck closely to the diet were 83 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

Even those who smoked, were older, and had a family history of diabetes experienced protective benefits from the Mediterranean diet.

The World Health Organization estimates more than 180 million people worldwide have diabetes. This number is likely to more than double by 2030, as more nations adopt a Western lifestyle.

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Dr. Mercola's Comments:

The Mediterranean diet is in many ways leaps and bounds better than the standard American diet. It includes plenty of olive oil for one, whereas many Americans are still afraid of fat. It also emphasizes fresh vegetables, something most people could use more of.

And it downplays processed foods, which make up the majority of the typical diet in the United States.

That the Mediterranean diet can be good for you has been well established. Studies have shown that it can:
So should you jump on to the Mediterranean bandwagon and adopt this increasingly popular diet?

No way.

Even the Mediterranean Diet Has Some Flaws

There are several glaring errors that come to mind when I think about the “”heart-healthy” Mediterranean diet.

1. It promotes the misguided notion that saturated fats are bad for you.

Like the U.S. food pyramid, the Mediterranean diet vilifies saturated fats. Things like red meats and eggs, according to the diet, should be eaten sparingly. Saturated fats, however, have been wrongly blamed for the epidemics of heart disease and obesity. In reality, these healthy animal fats are necessary and very good for you.

2. It encourages eating many grains.

Bread, pasta, rice, potatoes and other grains are emphasized in the Mediterranean diet. Never mind that these are the exact items (along with vegetable oils and sugars) that have significantly contributed to heart disease, diabetes and obesity spiraling out of control in the United States. A small portion of people, perhaps one-third, can thrive on a diet like this one that encourages whole grains. But what about the rest of us? 

You can read my other article on insulin to find out if you are someone that needs to avoid many or most grains.

3. One diet could never be right for everyone.

You have an individual nutritional type that dictates which foods are healthy for you. Those foods may or may not be the same ones that are healthy for your spouse, your neighbor or your best friend. So while a carb nutritional type may do very well on the Mediterranean diet, a protein type would feel lousy because there simply isn’t enough red meat and fat to sustain them.

What else concerns me about the Mediterranean diet is its reckless promotion of fish and seafood.

Healthy?

Yes, in theory, because it contains beneficial omega-3 fats.

But today our waterways are polluted, which means most fish is polluted too. And if you’re eating farm-raised fish, that’s an even worse option. So while I believe you should definitely get omega-3 fats in your diet, I recommend doing so through an animal-based omega-3 supplement like krill oil. This way you get the benefits without the pollution.

Also worthy of note, while cheese, yogurt and other dairy are popular foods in this diet, there is no mention of getting them raw, which is a key part of making them healthy. Of course, in many regions overseas dairy products are still widely available unpasteurized, so it may be more of an American issue to clarify the importance of eating dairy products raw.

The Rise of the “Med Mark”

Mediterranean diet, Med MarkThe latest of food labeling schemes to hit the market is the “Med Mark,” (right) a stamp for food labels that helps you identify foods that are part of the Mediterranean diet.

The stamp is the work of Oldways, a non-profit “food issues think tank” that also was behind the Whole Grains Stamp released in 2005.

Should you keep an eye out for foods with this stamp?

It depends.

On some levels, it’s a good thing. Products that have the stamp are supposed to be minimally processed or “meet stringent health standards” including having zero trans fats and limited sodium and sugar content. As is typical, saturated fats (the incorrect scapegoat) are also supposed to be limited.

As of March 2008, the Med Mark appeared on over 100 food items, and this is expected to rise to 300 by the end of the year.

I can tell you right now that the majority of these food items are probably not that healthy. The exceptions would be foods like extra virgin olive oil, avocados and olives … natural food products in their original form.

What you will surely begin to see, though, will be shelves of pasta, bread, dips, soups, pasta sauce and other processed foods with this Med Mark attached. And processed foods are not ideal choices for your health.

So do feel free to pick and choose from the healthy elements of the Mediterranean diet, but also feel free to bypass those that are not.

For Those of You With Diabetes …

The benefit found in the above study likely came from the use of healthy fats and increased veggies -- NOT from the large amount of grains. For people with diabetes, the last thing you want to be eating is a lot of grains, or any for that matter.

Swap out your grains and sugar for high-quality sources of protein, healthy fat (which INCLUDES saturated fat) and vegetables, and you’ll be off to a great start.

Add in regular exercise, the other essential key to preventing and reversing diabetes, and you’ll be even better off.

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