When it comes to living with diabetes, a low carb, Mediterranean style diet has been shown to be more effective than the typical calorie restricted, low-fat eating plan according to a just-released study appearing in the September 1st issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine looking at the recommended diet for diabetes sufferers.
Until now both of these eating plans had been recommended for weight loss in overweight (or obese) patients diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, but there have been few direct comparisons of the eating plans.
Seeing this and wanting to asses the effectiveness, durability and safety of the two diets, Dr. Dario Giugliano of the Second University of Naples in Italy and his team randomly assigned 215 subjects with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes who had never treated with medication to either a low carb Mediterranean style diet or a low-fat diet.
This was a lifestyle, not a fat diet tried on for a few weeks. Both groups received monthly counseling sessions from nutritionists and dietitians for the first year, every other month for the remaining three years.
At the end of the four year study, one of the longest running of its kind, 44% of those on the Mediterranean style diet needed medication to lower their blood sugar, compared to 70% needing medication from the low-fat diet group.
At the one-year mark, subjects following the Mediterranean diet lost more weight - a difference of 4.4 pounds. These dieters also had slimmer waistlines. This group even saw greater increases in HDL (good) cholesterol and bigger decreases in harmful triglycerides. The heart healthy benefits remained for the duration of the study.
Understand there's no one "Mediterranean" diet, at least 16 countries all with their own tastes combine to create the eating plan that's taken on the name. It's best to think of the Mediterranean diet as a way of living and eating that all about plenty of fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains, with limits on red meat and processed foods.
Fat come from olive and canola oils as well as small portions of nuts such as walnuts, pecans, almonds and hazelnuts. Herbs and spices (not salt) are used to flavor foods. Carbs are few. Red wine, in moderation (5 ounces daily for women or men over age 65, no more than 10 ounces daily for men under age 65) is in there too.
But it's not all about food; the Mediterranean diet is also about eating meals with family and friends. The chance to socialize and enjoy companionship as well as food.
The low fat diet used in the research was based on the American Heart Association guidelines. It had lots of whole grains, limited sweets and allowed no more than 30% of calories to come from fat, keeping to 10% from saturated (animal) fats.
If this type of eating plan is working for you, this latest study isn't any reason to change your eating plan, but you can be aware, so you're making an informed decision about your diet plan.
What's worrisome for the medical community is that the numbers with type 2 diabetes is growing quickly, with an estimated 380 million cases by 2025.
Today diabetes affects over 20 million Americans and brings symptoms like blurred vision, fatigue, increased appetite, thirst and need to urinate. Since type 2 diabetes develops slowly, some people don't experience many symptoms.
The definitive way to know if there's a problem is to visit your doctor for testing to include a fasting blood glucose test or others your physician may order for you.
In the meantime, this intriguing study clearly shows that lifestyle changes, especially a key one like adopting a healthier way of eating, can impact your disease and maybe keep you from having to rely on medication to manage your condition.
Even if the recommended diet for diabetes, the Mediterranean diet, isn't for you, a dietician can help you come up with an eating plan that accounts for your likes and dislikes and still keeps your body healthy.
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