Type 2 diabetes develops when the body becomes resistant to insulin or when the pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin. This hormone has a moderating effect on blood sugar, a type of sugar you absorb through eating food. Left to its own devices, blood sugar will increase in the bloodstream, a process that can seriously damage your heart, your eyes, your feet and your kidneys.
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You must look to your lifestyle to compensate for this faulty mechanism.
This is where eating a healthy diet becomes doubly important because certain items have been shown to lower blood sugar levels.
One such item is extra virgin olive oil, a staple of the Mediterranean diet.
Research has found that olive oil reduces blood sugar and cholesterol more than other kinds of fats.
Like type 2 diabetes, cholesterol is a fatty substance that can lead to heart problems.
The small study, conducted at Sapienza University in Romen, monitored 25 participants, all of whom ate a typical Mediterranean lunch – consisting primarily of fruits, vegetables, grains and fish – on two separate occasions.
For the first meal, they added 10g of extra virgin olive oil. For the second, they added 10g of corn oil.
After each meal, the participants blood glucose levels were tested. The rise in blood sugar levels was much smaller after the meal with extra virgin olive oil than after the meal with corn oil.
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The findings were consistent with previous studies, which have linked extra virgin olive oil to higher levels of insulin, making it beneficial to people with type 2 diabetes.
Commenting on the findings, Francesco Violo, lead author of the study, said: “Lowering blood glucose and cholesterol may be useful to reduce the negative effects of glucose and cholesterol on the cardiovascular system.”
While the results are encouraging, the researchers stress that extra virgin olive oil should be consumed as part of an overall healthy diet to reap the benefits.
Why is following a Mediterranean-style diet such a safe bet for blood sugar management?
As Diabetes.co.uk explains, Mediterranean diets are rich in fruit, vegetables and fibre can help people with diabetes to control their blood sugar levels.
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A traditional Mediterranean diet mainly consists of:
- Oily fish
- Fresh fruit and vegetables
- Fresh bread
- Olive oil
The diet is also relatively low in carb, a feature that is key to controlling blood sugar levels.
Carbohydrate is broken down into glucose relatively quickly and therefore has a more pronounced effect on blood sugar levels than either fat or protein.
It is therefore imperative to shun high-carb foods for low-carb equivalents.
A handy way to distinguish between the two is to follow the glycemic index (GI).
The Glycemic Index (GI) is a relative ranking of carbohydrate in foods according to how they affect blood glucose levels.
Type 2 diabetes – what are the warning signs?
As the NHS explains, many people have type 2 diabetes without realising because symptoms do not necessarily make you feel unwell.
If you do experience symptoms, these can include:
- Urinating more than usual, particularly at night
- Feeling thirsty all the time
- Feeling very tired
- Losing weight without trying to
- Itching around your penis or vagina, or repeatedly getting thrush
- Cuts or wounds taking longer to heal
- Blurred vision
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