Mediterranean diet may offset genetic risk for stroke

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

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.

Tina Hesman Saey

Tina Hesman Saey is the senior staff writer and reports on molecular biology. She has a Ph.D. in molecular genetics from Washington University in St. Louis and a master’s degree in science journalism from Boston University.

More Stories from Science News on Health & Medicine

From the Nature Index

Paid Content