Diabetes Self-Management Blog

We’ve previously reported on the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet, a style of eating that focuses on the consumption of healthful monounsaturated fats, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, fish, nuts, and legumes, as well as moderate daily consumption of alcohol and a relatively low intake of red meat. Now, for the first time, analysis suggests that a version of the diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts may reduce the risk of peripheral arterial disease (PAD).

PAD is a condition in which arteries leading to the legs, feet, and sometimes the arms become narrowed, blocking blood flow and potentially leading to series damage, such as a heart attack or stroke. Having diabetes puts a person at increased risk of developing PAD.

To determine the effect of a Mediterranean diet on PAD, researchers from the University of Navarra in Spain looked at data from 7,477 people in the randomized PREDIMED trial, conducted between October 2003 and December 2010. The study included men from 55 to 80 years of age and women from 60 to 80 years of age who did not have PAD or cardiovascular disease but who did have Type 2 diabetes or at least three other cardiovascular risk factors.

Participants were randomly assigned to follow one of three diets: a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with nuts, or a low-fat diet combined with counseling. All of the participants received a dietary educational program every three months.

At the midpoint of the study, 89 people had developed PAD. The researchers found that those in the group following the Mediterranean diet supplemented with nuts had half the risk of developing PAD, while those who followed the Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil had a one-third risk of the condition.

“To our knowledge, this is the first randomized primary prevention trial to suggest an association between a dietary intervention and PAD. These results are consistent with previous observational studies and relevant from a public health perspective,” noted lead author Miguel Ruiz-Canela, PhD, and colleagues.

The study authors added that it is too early to conclude that the Mediterranean diet caused the reduction in PAD risk and suggest that further study is needed.

For more information, read the article “Mediterranean diet may reduce risk of peripheral arterial disease” or see the research letter in The Journal of the American Medical Association. To learn more about PAD, read the article “When Your Legs Ache: Peripheral Arterial Disease and Diabetes.”

And to try some Mediterranean-inspired dishes, see the following recipes:

Greek salad
Greek shrimp
Greek-style gyros
Marinated Mediterranean salad

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