Objective: To study the association between adherence to the Mediterranean dietary pattern (MDP) and risk of developing type 2 diabetes, across European countries.
Research design and methods: We established a case-cohort study including 11,994 incident type 2 diabetic case subjects and a stratified subcohort of 15,798 participants selected from a total cohort of 340,234 participants with 3.99 million person-years of follow-up, from eight European cohorts participating in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study. The relative Mediterranean diet score (rMED) (score range 0-18) was used to assess adherence to MDP on the basis of reported consumption of nine dietary components characteristic of the Mediterranean diet. Cox proportional hazards regression, modified for the case-cohort design, was used to estimate the association between rMED and risk of type 2 diabetes, adjusting for confounders.
Results: The multiple adjusted hazard ratios of type 2 diabetes among individuals with medium (rMED 7-10 points) and high adherence to MDP (rMED 11-18 points) were 0.93 (95% CI 0.86-1.01) and 0.88 (0.79-0.97), respectively, compared with individuals with low adherence to MDP (0-6 points) (P for trend 0.013). The association between rMED and type 2 diabetes was attenuated in people <50 years of age, in obese participants, and when the alcohol, meat, and olive oil components were excluded from the score.
Conclusions: In this large prospective study, adherence to the MDP, as defined by rMED, was associated with a small reduction in the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in this European population.