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Can Olive Oil Lower the Risk of or Reverse Pre-diabetes?

Olive Oil

About one in ten people has type 2 diabetes. However, an even larger number, around one in three, has pre-diabetes, a condition where fasting blood sugar level is higher than it should be but not in the range where it’s classified as diabetes. You’re in the pre-diabetic range when your fasting blood glucose level is between 100 ng/ml and 125 ng/ml. Below 100 ng/ml is in the normal range while over 125 ng/ml. indicates type 2 diabetes.

Although a fasting blood sugar level is useful, it only looks at blood glucose at a single point in time. A better way to test for pre-diabetes is with a HgBA1C blood test. This test is an estimate of your average fasting blood sugar level over the past 3 months. A healthy HgBA1C is below 5.7% while prediabetic is 5.7% to 6.4%. Above 6.4% is in the diabetic range.

Here’s a surprising fact. Despite one in three people being prediabetic, 9 out of 10 don’t know it. Why are so many people in the dark about pre-diabetes? People with pre-diabetes often have no symptoms. Despite the absence of symptoms, research suggests that pre-diabetes can damage the body, even before type 2 diabetes develops. So, it’s important to get elevated blood sugars under control and make the necessary lifestyle changes to bring them into a healthier range. How can you do that?

Body Weight Strongly Affects the Risk of Prediabetes and Type 2 Diabetes

One of the best ways to reverse type 2 diabetes is to lose weight if you’re overweight. The type of diet you eat also has an impact. A diet rich in refined carbohydrates, ultra-processed foods, can lead to further weight gain and that worsens pre-diabetes. Gaining weight can even push you over into the diabetic range.

But what about specific foods? Some studies show that olive oil may help bring blood sugar down and improve type 2 diabetes. Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fat, a heart-healthy type of fat. Other sources of monounsaturated fat include macadamia nuts and avocados, and these foods can be a healthy addition to your diet.

What Research Shows about Olive Oil and Type 2 Diabetes

Can olive oil have an impact on prediabetes? As part of a 3-month study, researchers asked 43 people diagnosed with pre-diabetes to eat a diet rich in monounsaturated fat, half of which came from olive oil. Another group ate a diet high in fiber while a third ate the diet they usually ate. Each diet had a similar number of calories.

What makes monounsaturated fat unique? Monounsaturated fat has a chemical structure, a single double bond, that distinguishes it from other types of fat. Studies show that a diet that contains monounsaturated fat helps lower LDL-cholesterol, which is favorable for heart health.

After 3 months on a monounsaturated diet that emphasized olive oil, the subjects experienced significant improvements in insulin sensitivity and the way their cells handle glucose. These changes are favorable for metabolic health and for reversing pre-diabetes. Plus, the subjects who ate the diet rich in monounsaturated fat experienced a 17% drop in the amount of fat they stored in their liver.

One of the complications of pre-diabetes and poor blood sugar control is an increase in liver fat, a condition called non-alcoholic fatty liver (NAFLD). Between 5 and 10% of people with fatty liver will develop inflammation in their liver and a small percentage of that group will develop liver scarring or cirrhosis. Cirrhosis is a serious condition since the liver function you lose is irreversible.

One problem with a study like this is that when you add something, like olive oil, it means you consume less of something else. The people in the olive oil diet consumed fewer carbohydrates, and that could account for some of the health benefits. However, other studies show compounds in olive oil may lower the risk of type 2 diabetes if you substitute olive oil for other forms of fat. That may be the key to success; use olive in place of the fat you consume every day rather than adding more fat to your diet.

How Olive Oil Improves Metabolic Health

Not only are the monounsaturated fats in olive oil heart healthy, but extra-virgin olive oil also contains bioactive compounds with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity, and inflammation plays a key role in insulin resistance, the driving force behind pre-diabetes. Therefore, reducing the quantity of ultra-processed carbohydrates in your diet and substituting olive oil for other forms of fat is a smart move if you have pre-diabetes.

For the most benefits, look for extra-virgin olive from a reliable supplier. Extra virgin means the product is unrefined and retains more of its antioxidants, components that likely explain some of its health benefits. Do your research! Research shows up to 80% of Italian olive oil is diluted with other less healthy oils. In fact, an analysis by the National Consumer League discovered that 6 of 11 bottles of extra-virgin olive they tested from major supermarkets didn’t meet quality standards.

The Bottom Line

What you eat matters if you have pre-diabetes. There’s no one food that alone will reverse prediabetes but switching some fat in your diet for the monounsaturated fats in olive oil may be beneficial. Choose your olive oil carefully, as there’s a high rate of olive oil fraud, but enjoy the potential benefits this oil that makes food taste delicious offers.

 

References:

  • Nutr Diabetes. 2017 Apr; 7(4): e262.
  • Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Aug; 102(2): 479-486.
  • Clin. Endocrinol. Metab. 2017. Doi: 10.12/jc 2017-01147.
  • Trends in Food Science & Technology. Volume 77, July 2018, Pages 77-90.
  • Biophys Chem. 2017 Nov;230:109-116. doi: 10.1016/j.bpc.2017.09.002. Epub 2017 Sep 23.
  • com. “The Olive Oil Scam: If 80% Is Fake, Why Do You Keep Buying It?”
  • Endocr Metab Immune Disord Drug Targets. 2018;18(1):36-50. doi: 10.2174/1871530317666171114114321.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Type 2 Diabetes”
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2020”
  • com. “The Olive Oil Scam: If 80% Is Fake, Why Do You Keep Buying It?”

 

 

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