Italian researchers found that extra-virgin olive oil taken with meals helps to reduce blood sugar elevations after meals in type 1 diabetics. This may help explain the lower observed incidence of diabetes seen in those eating a traditional Mediterranean diet, which is rich in olive oil.
Before going further into the weeds, remember that glycemic index refers to how high and quickly a particular food elevates blood sugar. High-glycemic index foods raise blood sugar quicker and higher compared to low-glycemic index foods.
The study at hand is a small one: 18 patients. They were given both high- and low-glycemic meals with varying amounts and types of fat. Meals were either low-fat, high in saturated fat (from butter), or high in monounsaturated fat from olive oil. Meals that were high-glycemic index resulted in lower after-meal glucose levels if the meal had high olive oil content, compared to low-fat and butter-rich meals.
If meals were low in glycemic index, blood sugar levels were about the same whether the diet was low-fat, high in saturated fat, or rich in olive oil.
If you have type 1 diabetes and plan on eating high on the glycemic index scale, reduce your blood sugar excursions by incorporating extra-virgin olive oil into your meals.
Reference: Bozzetto, Luigarda, et al. Extra-virgin olive oil reduces glycemic response to a high-glycemic index meal in patients with type 1 diabetes: a randomized controlled trial. Diabetes Care, online before print, February 9, 2016. doi: 10.2337/dc15-2189