How the Mediterranean diet can prevent obesity and type 2 diabetes

Our modern, Western world brings with it a typical diet. This is characterized by high levels of carbohydrates and sugar, saturated and trans fatty acids, red and processed meats, and convenience foods. But as normal and convenient as this modern, Western diet may seem to us, it also brings with it the risk for the development of diseases that are spreading like an epidemic throughout the Western world and developing countries. Western dietary habits can lead to permanently elevated blood glucose levels and insulin resistance, which are associated with obesity, type 2 diabetes, nonalcoholic fatty liver (NAFLD), and cardiovascular disease, among others [1, 2].

How can I reduce my personal risk of getting sick?

In addition to various so-called non-modifiable risk factors such as genetic predisposition, modifiable risk factors also play an essential role in the development of disease. “Modifiable” is the name given to these risk factors because we can influence and change them ourselves. Such modifiable risk factors include, above all, lifestyle factors such as diet, smoking, alcohol and exercise.

Just as the Western diet can contribute to diseases like type 2 diabetes or obesity developing in the first place, a different — healthier — diet can counteract these diseases.

In recent years, various scientific studies have shown that a Mediterranean diet achieves positive effects on blood sugar and cholesterol levels, reduces body weight and thus also prevents, for example, the development of type 2 diabetes, obesity or cardiovascular diseases [1]. It is also interesting and important that a changed diet can also improve and in some cases even cure already existing diseases [3].

What exactly is a Mediterranean diet?

The Mediterranean diet describes a predominantly plant-based diet with a high proportion of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and whole grains. In addition, the proportion of fish and olive oil — both good sources of omega-3 fatty acids — is also very high, whereas little red and processed meat, convenience products and fried foods are consumed [1].

The advantages of a Mediterranean diet lie particularly in the fact that a high proportion of anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative substances are consumed. Studies have shown that such substances are often reduced in diabetics [1,4 ]. Some of these substances can reduce inflammatory processes in the body and ensure improved uptake of glucose into muscle cells, thereby achieving an anti-diabetic effect [5, 6, 7].

In addition, the Mediterranean diet is rich in fiber, which is good for digestion and can positively influence our microbiome. But what exactly does it mean to positively influence the microbiome? Our intestines are naturally home to millions of bacteria — the “Million Friends”. These are important for our health and especially for our immune system. However, in addition to the “good” — that is, health-promoting — bacteria, there are also those that are pathogenic — that is, disease-promoting. Normally, the pathogenic bacteria are displaced by the health-promoting bacteria. The Mediterranean diet, with its high fiber content, can help the health-promoting bacteria to spread, thus pushing back the pathogenic bacteria. This also has positive effects on blood sugar and cholesterol levels and on the immune system, which in turn reduces inflammatory processes in the body [1,8 ].

Is the Mediterranean diet right for me?

The Mediterranean diet offers a good basic concept for nutrition, as the positive and health-promoting effects have been scientifically proven. Nevertheless, the “right” diet is individually different and should therefore also be tailored to each person personally. With MillionFriends you can test the influence of different foods and your favorite dishes on your blood sugar level for 14 days and adapt your diet individually to the needs of your body. You can also test Mediterranean dishes and find out whether, for example, you combine fish better with potatoes or whole-grain rice to keep your blood sugar level constant and promote your health.

Bibliography:

[1] Martín-Peláez, S., Fito, M., Castaner, O. (2020). Mediterranean Diet Effects on Type 2 Diabetes Prevention, Disease Progression, and Related Mechanisms. A Review. Nutrients. 12(8):2236. doi: 10.3390/nu12082236

[2] Freeman, A.M., Pennings, N. (2021). Insulin resistance. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. PMID: 29939616.

[3] Lean, M.E., Leslie, W.S., Barnes, A.C. et al. (2018). Primary care-led weight management for remission of type 2 diabetes (DiRECT): an open-label, cluster-randomised trial. Lancet. 391(10120):541–551. doi: 10.1016/S0140–6736(17)33102–1

[4] Nani, A., Murtaza, B., Khan, A.S. et al. (2021). Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Potential of Polyphenols Contained in Mediterranean Diet in Obesity: Molecular Mechanisms. Molecules. 26(4):985. doi: 10.3390/molecules26040985

[5] Gantenbein, K.V., Kanaka-Gantenbein, C. (2021). Mediterranean Diet as an Antioxidant: The Impact on Metabolic Health and Overall Wellbeing. Nutrients. 13(6):1951. doi: 10.3390/nu13061951

[6] Kim, Y., Keogh, J.B., Clifton, P.M. (2016). Polyphenols and glycemic control. Nutrients. 8(1):17.

doi: 10.3390/nu8010017

[7] Dhanya, R., Arya, A.D., Nisha, P. et al. (2017). Quercetin, a Lead Compound against Type 2 Diabetes Ameliorates Glucose Uptake via AMPK Pathway in Skeletal Muscle Cell Line. Front Pharmacol. 8:336. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2017.00336

[8] Holscher, H.D. (2017). Dietary fiber and prebiotics and the gastrointestinal microbiota. Gut microbes. 8(2):172–184. doi: 10.1080/19490976.2017.1290756

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