A review conducted by Greek and Australian researchers showed that a Mediterranean diet pattern resulted in weight loss, reduction of blood sugar with delayed requirement for diabetes medications compared to other diets.
By Janet Brancato MS, RDN. Edited by Elena Paravantes RDN.
Type 2 Diabetes is a health concern worldwide, with 90-95% of people with Diabetes having this type. Insulin resistance occurs with Type 2 Diabetes, when your body cannot use insulin properly to manage blood sugar levels and they remain elevated damaging eyes, kidneys, nerves, and heart. Some risk factors for type 2 diabetes include: obesity especially excess body fat in the waist, hereditary, history of gestational diabetes, and advanced age.
This review published in the journal Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases, gathered information from the databases of Cochrane Central, PubMED, and Scopus, included 20 randomized controlled studies for over 6 months that researched the effectiveness of various dietary patterns on Type 2 Diabetes. Low carbohydrate diets, macrobiotic, vegan, vegetarian, Mediterranean, and intermittent fasting diets were all compared to a low fat diet for improving diabetes control and management.
The Mediterranean diet is economical, sustainable long term, and encourages the use of highly palatable foods.
Low Carbohydrate Diets-Inconclusive Evidence
This review concluded that there was no significant difference in blood sugar control, weight and lipids for the majority of low carbohydrate diets compared to low fat diets.
The research on the effectiveness of low carbohydrate diets for diabetes has been inconclusive according to the researchers, and they add that a possible explanation may be that people are unable to achieve a strict carbohydrate intake in the long-term.
The Mediterranean diet pattern showed improvement in body weight reduction, and blood sugar levels with delayed requirement for diabetes medications. Vegan and macrobiotic diet improved glycemic control and the vegetarian diet lead to greater weight loss and improved insulin resistance.
The review suggests that vegetarian and Mediterranean dietary patterns may be more effective not only for improving blood sugar levels but also cardiovascular risk markers in people with diabetes, taking into account that low carbohydrate diets are usually high in saturated fat which may accelerate the progression of CAD. In addition, the Mediterranean diet is economical, sustainable and encourages the use of highly palatable foods which makes it easier to follow. Finally it is important to note that a true, authentic Mediterranean Diet is a moderate carbohydrate diet (not high ranging) at about 40-45% of total calories.
Long term interventions are needed, but evidence from this review show that the Mediterranean diet, vegan, and vegetarian eating styles should be implemented in public health strategies to control weight and blood sugar management in individuals with type 2 diabetes. The American Diabetes Association, and The European Association for the Study of Diabetes suggest that the Mediterranean Diet is most beneficial in improving glycemic control as compared to low carbohydrate, low glycemic index, high protein diets, and The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet.
Mediterranean Diet Tips
Here are some tips for including more Mediterranean influenced plant focused foods to your meals and snacks daily:
Add color to your meals with seasonal produce like vegetables and fruits.
1.Include more plant-based proteins like beans, nuts, and seeds.
2. Aim to eat omega-3 fatty fish at least 2 x per week
3. Reduce meat to once or twice a week.
4. Use extra virgin extra virgin olive oil for most of your cooking needs to add antioxidants needed to lower inflammation, a marker for chronic conditions. In addition it has been shown to be associated with a decreased risk for developing type 2 Diabetes as well as improving glucose metabolism
- Papamichou, D. et al. Dietary patterns and management of type 2 diabetes: A systematic review of randomised clinical trials. Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases
- Davies MJ, D’Alessio DA, Fradkin J, Kernan WN, Mathieu C, Mingrone G, et al. Management of hyperglycemia in type 2 diabetes, 2018. A consensus report by the American diabetes association (ADA) and the European association for the study of diabetes (EASD). Diabetes Care 2018 Oct 4. dci180033.
- Schwingshackl L, Chaimani A, Hoffmann G, Schwedhelm C, Boeing H. A network meta-analysis on the comparative efficacy of different dietary approaches on glycaemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Eur J Epidemiol 2018 Feb;33(2):157e70.
Photo by Marco Verch for flickr
Just finished a great book about this. I have LADA, or Diabetes Type “1.5,” which is an autoimmune version that affects adults (vs. the Type 1 of childhood). I have found the book The Obesity Code makes tremendous sense, and clarifies why traditional diets always seem to work for a while and then fail. With an A1C of 6.4, you may have some insulin resistance, and this shows you how to lower it. You don’t have to buy the book, because the author, Dr. Jason Fung, has lots of free YouTube videos.
I have been using this method since 1/2019 and have lowered my A1C gradually from 7.2 down to 6.2 (tested today at Joslin Diabetes in Boston). My cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL, and HDL have all improved also. My Diabetes MD is thrilled with the progress. I also, very slowly, lost about 12 lbs so far, so I’m a happy camper.
Check it out and see what you think. I think what helped me the most was minimal intermittent fasting, consisting of eating around 7 PM and not eating the next day until around 1 PM. I was amazed that it made a difference, but I’m also going off one of my meds, because I’m now more sensitive to the insulin I’m still making.
Best of Luck! (I am not a diabetes MD, just responding as a diabetic.)
I have been diagnosed as prediabetic with a1c 6.4 …tried following mediterranean with no luck losing weight and loweing a1c! Can anyone help with a menu plan ..I am desperate to lose weight and lower a1c
Hi Arlene, You can find a menu plan for an authentic Mediterranean diet here: https://www.olivetomato.com/authentic-mediterranean-diet-meal-plan/ . Please note this is not a typical Westernized Mediterranean diet, but the original diet that was studied in the 50’s. Good Luck!
I am a regular reader of your site and would say that your approach towards the food and health is very unique. thanks for valuable information.
Thank you Vivek!!
I was recently diagnosed with diabetis 2 and an above normal A1C. I fought my doctor with the Mediterranean diet and went on a low carb diet. My triglycerides shot up and my A1C went up. I finally the past two months did the Mediterranean diet. My A1C went down and my triglycerides shot down 60 points. I am truly a believer. we need to watch our fat; good carbs such as beans and whole grains and cold water fish, olive oil, fresh fruit, vegetables. greek yogurt and the like are truly the way to go. I hope in the next 3 months to have completely normal A1C and completely normal triglycerides; though both are out of danger range. As an example I had Mediterranean red salmon, brown rice with Kashmir Marsala spice, and oven roasted brocilli for lunch. Yum. And healthy too.
Thank you for sharing Colette! Great lunch!
I have had type 2 diabetes for 4 years now. I had been successful in keeping my blood sugar in a good range (5.5% a1c) with a reduced carb diet, but had concerns around my cardiovascular health as I age. After a lot of research, I decided to go with the Mediterranean Diet (it’s been 2 months now). It made me nervous to increase my carb allowance and even introduce fruit. My a1c is now 5.0% and my cholesterol and triglycerides have all gone down quite a bit. I’m a believer!
That is good news! Congratulations !