Consuming a Mediterranean diet - rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and healthy fats and low in refined sugars and saturated fats - for six months may benefit people with HIV and Type 2 diabetes, a new study has claimed.
HIV-positive people who received healthy food and snacks for six months were more likely to adhere to their medication regimens, and they, as well as people with type 2 diabetes, were less depressed and less likely to make trade-offs between food and health-care, according to researchers at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) in the US.
The study was designed to evaluate whether helping people get medically appropriate, comprehensive nutrition would improve their health.Such food assistance as an approach to improve medication adherence and health has been shown to be effective in low-resource countries, but it has not been well studied in the developed world.
With 52 participants, the new study was too small to show conclusively whether providing nutritious food to people with diabetes resulted in better long-term control of their blood sugar, or reduced hospitalisations or emergency department visits.
It did find increases in the number of people with diabetes who achieved optimal blood sugar control and decreases in hospitalisations or emergency department visits, but these changes did not reach statistical significance.Participants with diabetes also consumed less sugar and lost weight.
"We saw significant improvements in food security and in outcomes related to all three mechanisms through which we posited food insecurity may affect HIV and diabetes health - nutritional, mental health, and behavioural," said Kartika Palar, assistant professor of medicine at UCSF.
"For example, we saw dramatic improvements in depression, the distress of having diabetes, diabetes self-management, trading-off between food and health-care, and HIV medication adherence," said Palar.
Researchers followed the participants for six months and found they consumed fewer fats, while increasing their consumption of fruits and vegetables.Overall, those in the study had fewer symptoms of depression and were less likely to binge drink. For those with HIV, adherence to antiretroviral therapy increased from 47 to 70 per cent.
The meals and snacks, which participants picked up twice a week, were based on the Mediterranean diet and featured fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats like olive oil, and whole grains.
They were also low in refined sugars and saturated fats, based on current recommendations from the American Diabetes Association and American Heart Association.
The meals and snacks fulfilled 100 per cent of daily caloric requirements. The study was published in the Journal of Urban Health.

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