The health benefits of sardines and oily fish are well known: their high unsaturated fat content helps regulate cholesterol levels and prevent cardiovascular disease from occurring. The benefits don’t end there, however. A study by Diana Diaz Rizzolo, a lecturer and researcher at the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) and the August Pi i Sunyer Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBAPS), found that regular consumption of sardines contributed to the outbreak prevent type 2 diabetes. Nutrients found in large quantities in sardines, such as taurine, omega 3, calcium and vitamin D, help protect against this disease, which, according to the Di @ betes study by CIBERDEM, affects around 14% of the Spanish population over 18 years of age are.

“Not only are sardines inexpensive and easy to find, they are also safe and help prevent type 2 diabetes from occurring. This is a great scientific discovery. It is easy to recommend this food for medical examinations, And that’s it.” widely accepted by the population, “declared Diana D. Rizzolo.

Researchers from the Diabetes and Obesity Research Laboratory and Primary Care Research Group, both from IDIBAPS; IMIM, the Fatty Acid Research Institute (EUA), the University of Barcelona, ​​CIBERDEM and the Department of Endocrinology and Nutrition of the Clínic de Barcelona Hospital also took part in the research project. The results of the study were published openly in the prestigious Clinical Nutrition Journal.

Two cans of sardines a week

152 patients aged 65 and over who had been diagnosed with prediabetes (blood sugar levels between 100 and 124 mg / dl) from three different primary care centers took part in the study. All of these patients received a nutritional program designed to reduce their risk of disease. Only the intervention group added 200 grams of sardines (two cans of sardines in olive oil) to their diet each week. To make this consumption easier, these study participants were given a list of recipes, including canned sardines, thanks to the Alicia Foundation. Participants were advised to eat the whole sardine without removing the bones, as these are particularly high in calcium and vitamin D.

Of the group that did not include sardines in their diet, 27% of the members were at high risk of developing diabetes (as measured by the FINDRISC questionnaire). After one year, 22% were in the same category. Of the group that included sardines in their diet, 37% of the members were at high risk of developing diabetes at the start of the study. After one year, only 8% were exposed to a very high risk. Improvements were also observed in other important biochemical parameters, such as a decreased insulin resistance index (HOMA-IR), increased “good” cholesterol (HDL), increased hormones that accelerate the breakdown of glucose (adiponectin), and decreased triglycerides and blood pressure. amongst other things.

The study was conducted in participants 65 and older because the incidence of diabetes in the elderly is much higher than in young people: “As you get older, restrictive diets (in terms of calories or food groups) can help prevent the onset of diabetes . However, the cost-benefit ratio is not always positive, as we have found in other studies, “explained doctor Rizzolo. “However, the results suggest that we can achieve an equally significant preventive effect in the younger population.”

The protective function of food, but not of dietary supplements

The fact that foods like sardines that are high in taurine, omega 3, calcium, and vitamin D have clear protective effects against the onset of diabetes does not mean that taking these supplements in isolation has the same effect. “Nutrients can play an essential role in the prevention and treatment of many different pathologies, but their effects are usually caused by the synergy between them and the food they are in. Sardines therefore have a protective element because they are rich in the above nutrients, while nutrients taken in isolation in the form of dietary supplements do not work to the same extent, “claimed Rizzolo.

In a second phase of the study, researchers began investigating the effects of sardines on the gut microbiota, “as it affects the regulation of many biological processes, and we need to understand whether they were involved in this protective effect against diabetes 2”. , She added. They also initiated studies to modulate the expression of certain genes related to inflammation that could play a role in the occurrence of diabetes 2 and various other diseases.


This research project falls under Sustainability Goal (SDG) number 3: Ensuring a healthy life and promoting well-being for all age groups.

Reference papers:

Preventive Effects of Type 2 Diabetes on a 12 Month Sardine-Enriched Diet in Older People with Prediabetes: An Interventional, Randomized, and Controlled Study (2021) DADíaz-Rizzolo, A. Serra, C. Colungo, A. Sala- Vila, A. Sisó-Almirall, R.Gomis doi:

Prevention of Type 2 Diabetes Through Sardine Consumption: An Integrative Review (2021) Diana A. Díaz-Rizzolo, Anna Miro, and Ramon Gomis

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