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New Study Offers Unusual Diet Suggestion for Type 2 Diabetes

Mediterranean diet and type 2 diabetes

Every time you turn around there seems to be another diet suggestion for type 2 diabetes, so here is another one. But like the popular saying goes, don’t try this one at home, at least until you consult your doctor.

The new study comes from Linkoping University in Sweden and included only 19 patients with type 2 diabetes. Three different dietary approaches were tested, and each of the participants tried all three of the diets over a period of weeks, after which the researchers collected data from blood samples concerning blood glucose, hormone, and blood lipid levels.

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Here are the three dietary approaches they tried. Keep in mind that each test was conducted for one day only, that breakfast and lunch food intake was monitored, and that the individuals ate their dinners at home.

  • Low-fat diet, with 45 to 56 percent of calories from carbohydrates from both breakfast and lunch
  • Low-carbohydrate diet, with 16 to 24 percent of calories from carbohydrates from both breakfast and lunch
  • Mediterranean diet, with no breakfast (black coffee only) and the same amount of calories as the other two plans, 32 to 35 percent of calories from carbohydrates, and a glass of red wine. Most of the fat content was from fatty fish and olives. In other words, this approach meant the subjects consumed the same amount of calories at one meal (lunch) as they would consume at both breakfast and lunch.

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What did the researchers find?
The Mediterranean plan, which included no breakfast, caused a significant rise in insulin after lunch which, according to the authors “was large enough to keep glucose excursions to be similar as during the low-fat diet containing much less calories at this single meal.” They also noted that the low-carb diet raised blood sugar levels much less than did the low-fat diet, although triglyceride levels tended to be high in the low-carb diet, and high triglycerides are dangerous.

According to the study’s lead investigator, Professor Fredrik Nystrom, their finding “suggests that it is favorable to have a large meal instead of several smaller meals when you have diabetes,” and that the “results give reason to reconsider both nutritional composition and meal arrangements for patients with diabetes.”

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One disease, many diets?
In fact, people with type 2 diabetes are often told that eating three meals a day with small snacks in between or eating five to six small meals throughout the day is a good way to help keep blood sugar levels balanced. But these approaches may not be the best for everyone who has the disease.

For example, the authors of a study presented at the American Diabetes Association conference in Chicago in June 2013 explained how they compared weight loss among people with type 2 diabetes who followed two different eating programs.

One group consumed two large meals daily (breakfast and lunch only) while another group ate six small meals throughout the day. All the participants followed each program for 12 weeks, and the calorie and nutrient content was similar in both groups.

The results may surprise you. Participants lost weight when they followed both eating programs, but they dropped more pounds when eating two large meals. This study involved only 54 participants, however, and so the results need to be viewed with that in mind.

Which diet approach is best for you?
What do you think? More importantly, what do you and your doctor think about this new dietary approach and the other eating options? Should you try a new dietary program to help manage your blood glucose levels and diabetes?

Numerous studies have indicated that the Mediterranean diet is beneficial for both prevention and management of type 2 diabetes. In a new study appearing in Diabetologia, for example, which included more than 22,000 participants and involved an average follow-up of 11 years, the authors reported that “a low GL [glycemic load] diet that also adequately adheres to the principles of the traditional Mediterranean diet may reduce the incidence of type 2 diabetes.”

The authors of the Swedish study point out that many people who follow the Mediterranean eating approach in countries such as Italy, Greece, and Portugal eat little or nothing for breakfast and consume most of their calories at lunch or dinner. This approach “might be a metabolic advantage” because cortisol levels normally peak in the morning and this hormone reduces insulin sensitivity.

The findings of this new study, as well as those of other research on diet and type 2 diabetes, raise some questions. Therefore, if you have type 2 diabetes, you may want to review your dietary options and discuss this unusual diet approach with your healthcare provider.

American Diabetes Association, “The Effect of Frequency of Meals on β-Cell Function in Subjects with Type 2 Diabetes” (June 23, 2013)
Fernemark H et al. A randomized cross-over trial of the postprandial effects of three different diets in patients with type 2 diabetes. PLoS ONE 2013; 8(11): e79324
Rossi M et al Mediterranean diet and glycaemic load in relation to incidence of type 2 diabetes: results from the Greek cohort of the population-based European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC). Diabetologia 2013 Nov; 56(11): 2405-13

Image: Rmjelley/Wikimedia Commons



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