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Mediterranean diet may offset genetic risk for stroke

Compared to a low-fat diet, eating fish and olive oil improved health

5:43pm, August 12, 2013
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Eating a fish-rich diet may help counteract some bad effects of having a genetic variant linked to diabetes, a new study suggests.

A common variation of the gene called TCF7L2 has been linked to higher risk of type 2 diabetes. The variant, known as the T form, may also raise the risk of heart disease and stroke, but studies have had mixed results. Part of the uncertainty may stem from people’s diets, a study published August 13 in Diabetes Care suggests.

Researchers analyzed data from more than 7,000 people who were assigned to eat one of three diets for seven years: a low-fat diet or one of two Mediterranean diets — one heavy in fish, olive oil and complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, or one that emphasized nuts instead of oil.

People with two copies of the gene’s T form who stuck to either Mediterranean diet had lower blood sugar levels than did people with the same genetic risk who ate the low-fat diet. And the Mediterranean diet erased any genetic discrepancy in stroke risk. People with two copies of the T form had three times the stroke risk on the low-fat diet.

Sticking to the diet was important: People who consistently cheated on the Mediterranean diet did not get the health benefits.


D. Corella et al. Mediterranean diet reduces the adverse effect of the TCF7L2- rs7903146 polymorphism on cardiovascular risk factors and stroke incidence. Diabetes Care published online August 13, 2013. DOI: 10.2337/dc13-0955
Further Reading

N. Seppa. Against the grains. Science News Vol. 174, August 16, 2008, p. 9. [Go to]

M. Crenson. What ancient mummies have to tell us about the perils of modern life. Science News online. April 29, 2013. [Go to]

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