The risk of developing type 2 diabetes can be reduced by adopting a Mediterranean diet, and now scientists have found a way to detect whether or not someone follows this diet through a simple blood test.
These results were published online in PLOS Medicine.
People who report eating a Mediterranean diet have a slightly reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to the findings of previous studies. This correlation, however, is clouded by the subjectivity of self-reports. Objective biological indicators, or biomarkers, of adherence to the Mediterranean diet have not been used to assess the association between the diet and type 2 diabetes risk until now.
Blood molecule levels were incorporated into a novel biomarker indicator of a Mediterranean diet developed by Sobiecki and colleagues.
The team first found that 24 fatty acids and 5 carotenoids in the blood could be used to predict which of 128 people in a clinical trial were assigned to the Mediterranean diet. Researchers created a biomarker score based on the concentrations of these molecules in the blood of study participants to determine how closely they adhered to the dietary guidelines of the Mediterranean diet.
Subsequently, the biomarker score was implemented in a study involving 340,234 people from eight European countries, of whom 9,453 developed type 2 diabetes during follow-up and had relevant biomarkers measured.
Researchers found that those whose biomarker score indicated greater adherence to a Mediterranean diet had a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes when compared to a control group of 12,749.
The researchers also had the participants report on their own eating habits for comparison. A greater correlation between the Mediterranean diet and a lower risk of type 2 diabetes was found when using the biomarker score as opposed to self-report. Previous studies relying on self-report may have underestimated the association, as suggested by this result.
The researchers conclude that even a small increase in people’s adherence to a Mediterranean diet can significantly reduce the incidence of type 2 diabetes. They note, however, that it is currently unknown to what extent the biomarker score is specific for the Mediterranean diet, so more research is needed to confirm and extend these new findings.