Aims/hypothesis: The role of diet in the prevention of diabetes remains uncertain. The aim of this study was to investigate two different dietary aspects, i.e. adherence to the Mediterranean diet and glycaemic load (GL), in relation to diabetes occurrence.
Methods: We analysed data from the Greek cohort of the population-based European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC). From a total of 22,295 participants, actively followed for a median of 11.34 years, 2,330 cases of incident type 2 diabetes were recorded. All participants completed a validated, interviewer-administered semi-quantitative food frequency questionnaire at enrolment. From this information, we calculated a ten point Mediterranean diet score (MDS), reflecting adherence to the traditional Mediterranean diet, as well as the dietary GL. We estimated HRs and the corresponding 95% CIs of diabetes using Cox proportional hazards regression models adjusted for potential confounders.
Results: A higher MDS was inversely associated with diabetes risk (HR 0.88 [95% CI 0.78, 0.99] for MDS ≥ 6 vs MDS ≤ 3). GL was positively associated with diabetes (HR 1.21 [95% CI 1.05, 1.40] for the highest vs the lowest GL quartile). A significant protection of about 20% was found for a diet with a high MDS and a low GL.
Conclusions/interpretation: A low GL diet that also adequately adheres to the principles of the traditional Mediterranean diet may reduce the incidence of type 2 diabetes.