BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVES:Dietary habits are important determinants of individual cardiovascular and metabolic risk. This study investigated the association between dietary patterns and asymptomatic carotid atherosclerosis, defined as the presence of plaques and/or increased intima-media thickness, and metabolic biomarkers of insulin resistance, including the homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) and the trygliceride/high-density lipoprotein (HDL)-cholesterol (Tg/HDL) ratio in a cohort of adults without known diabetes or atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.SUBJECTS/METHODS:Nine hundred and twenty-nine randomly selected participants were cross-sectionally investigated. Each participant answered a food frequency questionnaire, and underwent high-resolution ultrasonographic evaluation of both carotid arteries. Laboratory blood measurements were obtained in a subsample of 507 participants.RESULTS:A dietary pattern that could be defined as unhealthy (high consumption of soft drinks, fried foods, seed oils, cured meats, butter, red meat and sweets) was identified in 21% of the cohort, whereas 34% of the cohort exhibited a dietary pattern that resembled the Mediterranean diet (high intakes of fruit, milk and cheese, olive oil, vegetables, pasta and bread). Intermediate habits characterized the remaining 45%. After adjusting for age, body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) and hypertension on treatment, the Mediterranean dietary pattern was associated with significantly lower HOMA-IR (β-coefficient=-0.51; P=0.003). After adjusting for gender, BMI and HbA1c, the unhealthy dietary pattern was associated with a significantly higher Tg/HDL-cholesterol ratio (β-coefficient=0.43; P=0.006). No significant association was found between dietary patterns and carotid atherosclerosis.CONCLUSIONS:This study suggests that, independent of measures of adiposity, a Mediterranean dietary pattern is associated with lower insulin resistance.