Simple dietary changes ease diabetes risk

Since 1980 the number of individuals with diabetes in the United States has nearly tripled to an astonishing 17 million (1), leading physicians, researchers and pharmaceutical companies on the hunt for the most effective treatment options. A recent publication in Diabetes Care studied approximately 400 non-diabetic individuals at high cardiovascular risk and randomized them to one of three diets: Low-fat, Mediterranean with nuts, and Mediterranean with olive oil (2). Individuals were educated on the various diets but did not have to follow a certain calorie allotment or physical activity plan. After four years, the number of individuals with diabetes was 10.1 percent in the Mediterranean with olive oil group, 11 percent in the Mediterranean with nuts group and 17.9 percent in the low-fat group. Collectively when compared to the low-fat group, those following a Mediterranean diet were 52 percent less likely to develop diabetes. These results show the significant impact that simple dietary changes can have on diabetes risk reduction without having to dramatically change caloric intake or activity levels.

1. Diabetes Data and Trends. Available at: Accessed: 10/14/2010

2. Salas-Salvadó J, Bulló M, Babio N, Martínez-González MA, Ibarrola-Jurado N, Basora J, Estruch R, Covas MI, Corella D, Arós F, Ruiz-Gutiérrez V, Ros E; For the PREDIMED Study investigators. Reduction in the Incidence of Type 2-Diabetes with the Mediterranean Diet: Results of the PREDIMED-Reus Nutrition Intervention Randomized Trial. Diabetes Care. 2010 Oct 13. [Epub ahead of print]

Nothing contained in this blog is intended to be instructional for medial diagnosis or treatment. If you have a medical concern or issue, please consult your personal physician immediately.

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This entry was posted in Zone Health and tagged , , by Dr. Barry Sears. Bookmark the permalink.

About Dr. Barry Sears

Dr. Barry Sears is a leading authority on the impact of the diet on hormonal response, genetic expression, and inflammation. A former research scientist at the Boston University School of Medicine and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dr. Sears has dedicated his research efforts over the past 30 years to the study of lipids. He has published more than 30 scientific articles and holds 13 U.S. patents in the areas of intravenous drug delivery systems and hormonal regulation for the treatment of cardiovascular disease. He has also written 13 books, including the New York Times #1 best-seller "The Zone". These books have sold more than 5 million copies in the U.S. and have been translated into 22 different languages.

2 thoughts on “Simple dietary changes ease diabetes risk

  1. Dear Dr Sears,

    I find your writings very interesting and informative.

    You appear to suggest the cause of diabetes is excessive dietary arachidonic acid (AA, derived from fatty red meat, egg yolks, and high glycemic-load carbohydrates) which leads to obesity and increased insulin production, which in turn promotes increased AA production, which the body protectively stores in fat deposits in a (failed) effort to keep inflammation under control, which in turn triggers overproduction of pro-inflammatory eicosanoids into adipose (fatty) tissue, which are transfered into surrounding circulation, which cause systemic silent inflammation – and diabetes.

    In a recent study, researchers found AA ” has important regulatory and protective beta-cell action including regulating the genes involved in the processes of proliferation and fatty acid metabolism, stimulating cell proliferation and insulin secretion as well as dampening the negative effects of a saturated fatty acid, palmitic acid, resulting in reduced apoptosis or cell death.

    Commenting on the publication, Professor Newsholme said, “Further work is now needed to elucidate the exact mechanisms of the cytoprotection afforded to pancreatic beta cells by arachidonic acid and how it can modulate insulin secretion. This may open new avenues for the treatment of this disease, which represents a severe health and economic burden worldwide”.

    Perhaps I am missing something, but their research appears to suggest AA is protective and your research appears to suggest it is harmful (at least in excess).

    There are many studies which demonstrate milk/dairy is protective against metabolic syndrome.
    Without wishing to suggest obesity is not involved in diabetes/metabolic syndrome, is is possible a more feasible cause is an innapropriate ratio of various fats (saturated/omega 3, omega 6, polyunsaturated/ monounsaturated) rather than an excess of one particular one ?

    Many thanks,

    Pete Granger

  2. As I pointed out in my first book, The Zone, wellness requires a balance of “good” and “bad” eicosanoids. From omega-6 fatty acids come a combination of both “good” and “bad” eicosanoids. The vast majority of “good” eicosanoids are derived from DGLA, only a few from AA. What converts DGLA into AA is the enzyme delta-5-desaturase that is activated by insulin. Hence the need to control the ratio of protein to carbohydrate in the diet in order to lower insulin levels. Eicosanoids derived from AA activate the gene transcription factor PPAR gamma that increases the proliferation of fat cells as I described in my book Toxic Fat. However increased levels of AA will also cause disruption of insulin signaling in the fat cells leading to insulin resistance as well as increasing the accumulation of macrophages into the fat cells that lead to increased production of inflammatory cytokines. Omega-3 fatty acids (especially EPA) reverse the activation of those macrophages. That’s why I use the AA/EPA ratio as marker of inflammatory stress on the body. This is why you try to keep the AA/EPA ratio in a target zone to control the inflammatory levels in every tissue in the body. That’s why it’s called the Zone Diet.

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