Health

Examining the health benefits from a Mediterranean diet with a low glycemic index

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Globally, the prevalence of type 2 diabetes is rising. This disease is strongly linked to an increased risk of developing heart disease.

A recent study by Chalmers University of Technology food and nutrition researchers found that a Mediterranean diet that has a low glycemicindex (GI), could have health benefits that can help to prevent type 2 diabetes.

The current study, which is a collaboration of Purdue University, Federico II University and Chalmers, examined how meal-related insulin sensitivity was affected by a diet with high or low glycemicindex (GI).

“Lowering glucose levels after a meal may be a strategy to reduce the prevalence of type 2 diabetes, as a meal-related glucose increase probably contributes to the development of the disease,” says Thérése Hjorth, doctoral student in food and nutrition science at Chalmers, and one of the researchers behind the study.

Research has shown that carbohydrate-rich foods have a significant effect on blood glucose levels postprandially. Diabetics can manage their glucose control by choosing foods that are low in GI. However, there is no consensus on the effect of GI on non-diabetic individuals, particularly in the contexts of a healthy eating style (HEP).

“There is research showing that consuming Mediterranean (MED) HEP may reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, but no studies have previously evaluated the effect of foods with low versus high GI in connection with a MED-HEP diet,” says Thérése Hjorth.

Low GI may be an important part of the Mediterranean diet’s health benefits

The study included 160 participants at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes. They were required to complete a 12-week dietary program that compared MEDHEP with a low versus a higher GI. Participants consumed half of their daily carbohydrates in low GI foods, such as pasta, brown bread, flat bread, or high GI foods, such as potato, jasmine rice and mashed potatoes. They also consumed fruits, vegetables, as well as other carbohydrate rich foods.

“As we assumed, glucose levels were lower after the meals with a low GI diet, compared to the high GI diet − and the difference between the groups increased with time during the study. The difference in blood glucose levels between the groups was due to participants with high GI increasing their blood glucose after a meal while those who ate low GI had the same level as the baseline. This indicates that glucose levels are increasing after eating foods with a high GI for 12 weeks,” says Thérése Hjorth.

Researchers claim that GI can affect glucose levels in non-diabetic people, even if they eat a healthy Mediterranean diet. The bottom line is that a healthy diet (MED HEP) cannot compensate for a high-GI diet. One should consider the carbohydrate quality of the food, and choose foods with a low GIP.

“As low-GI foods such as pasta are part and parcel of a traditional Mediterranean meal, our results suggest that they may be an important part of the Mediterranean diet’s health benefits.”

When looking for biomarkers, results can be very useful

According to Chalmers researchers, these results can be very helpful in identifying biomarkers for food with high versus lower GI.

“These biomarkers can be used in epidemiological research to improve our understanding about the role of GI diets and their impact on health and disease. We will also use the vast data to better understand the role played by diet, gut microbiota, and plasma metabolites in explaining individual differences in glucose response to diet. says Thérése Hjorth.

The research was published in Nutrients.


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More information:
Robert E. Bergia et. al. Differential Glycemic Impacts of Mediterranean-Style Eating Patterns versus Low-Glycemic Index Mediterranean Eating Patterns in Adults at High Risk for Type 2 Diabetes: The MEDGI Carb Randomized Controlled Trial. Nutrients (2022). DOI: 10.3390/nu14030706

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Chalmers University of Technology


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