Overweight women who follow the Mediterranean diet are 30% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, researchers have said.

Teams from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School said they believe consuming a diet rich in healthy fats such as olive oil, fish and nuts helps improve insulin resistance.

The trial involved studying data from more than 25,000 women who were asked to follow a Mediterranean diet. This meant consuming more fruit, vegetables and whole grains, drinking a moderate amount of alcohol and eating less red meat.

Over the course of the trial, the participants had their cholesterol levels, body mass index (BMI) and insulin resistance measured. Of the 25,000 women who took part, 2,307 went on to develop type 2 diabetes.

Study corresponding author Dr Samia Mora, of Harvard Medical School in the US, said: “Our findings support the idea that by improving their diet, people can improve their future risk of type 2 diabetes, particularly if they are overweight or have obesity.”

Study first author Dr Shafqat Ahmad, of Uppsala University, in Sweden, said: “Most of this reduced risk associated with the Mediterranean diet and type 2 diabetes was explained through the biomarkers related to insulin resistance, BMI, lipoprotein metabolism and inflammation. This understanding may have important downstream consequences for the primary prevention of diabetes disease.”

The findings have been published in the JAMA Network Open.

Dr Ahmad added: “Even small changes can add up over time. One of the best things patients can do for future health is to improve their diet, and now we are beginning to understand why.”

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