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The research, funded by the American Diabetes Association, followed 215 middle-aged men and women who were recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. They were divided into two groups. One group was given a low-fat diet and the other a low-carbohydrate Mediterranean diet.
The subjects were followed for between six and eight years. The researchers measured diabetes marker HbA1c along with other symptoms of diabetes and medication use. They also measured body weight and mortality rate.
After this period, the researchers found that the rates of complete remission of diabetes among the low-carb Med Diet group was nearly three times the remission rate of the low-fat diet group at both one year and six years. The low-carb Med Diet group had a 15% remission at one year and 4% at year six.
The low-carb Med Diet group also had significantly reduced levels of HbA1c – a marker for increased diabetes risk and low glycemic control.
The low-carb Med Diet group also required significantly fewer diabetes drugs compared to the low-fat diet group.
Earlier Research Illustrated Low-Fat, High-Fiber Diets Reduced Diabetes Risk
Low-fat, high-fiber diets have been found in earlier research to reduce type 2 diabetes risk and symptoms. A 2006 study of 522 men and women from Finland's National Public Health Institute found that low-fat, high-fiber diets significantly beat high-fat, low-fiber diets for diabetes symptoms.
In this four-year study of Europeans, high-fiber, low-fat diets had 62% reduced type 2 diabetes incidence, while high-fat, low-fiber diets and more than double the risk (214%) for those with the highest quartile of fat intake. When compared with the high-fiber, low-fat group, high-fat diets ranged from nearly double to 268% more diabetes risk.
As we see from this most recent study, a low-carb Mediterranean diet performs even better than a low-fat diet. A low-carb Mediterranean diet contains a larger concentration of plant-based foods, healthy oils such as olive oil and more nuts – containing more monounsaturated and omega-3 fats.
Esposito K, Maiorino MI, Petrizzo M, Bellastella G, Giugliano D. The Effects of a Mediterranean Diet on the Need for Diabetes Drugs and Remission of Newly Diagnosed Type 2 Diabetes: Follow-up of a Randomized Trial. Diabetes Care. 2014 Jul;37(7):1824-30. doi: 10.2337/dc13-2899.
Lindström J, Peltonen M, Eriksson JG, Louheranta A, Fogelholm M, Uusitupa M, Tuomilehto J. High-fibre, low-fat diet predicts long-term weight loss and decreased type 2 diabetes risk: the Finnish Diabetes Prevention Study. Diabetologia. 2006 May;49(5):912-20.