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Following A Mediterranean Diet Reduces Your Risk Of Becoming Obese

Ingredients for fish soup: vegetables, fish, garlic, olive oil, etc.

I have written extensively on how a Mediterranean style diet can help prevent disease. A group of researchers using information gathered in Spain about dietary patterns looked at how a diet that closely adheres to the Mediterranean patterns affects weight gain (J Nutr 2006;136(11):2934-2938).

The study was conducted as part of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC - Spain). There were almost 28,000 participants (17,238 women and 10,589 men). At the beginning of the study, nutritionists collected information on dietary intake in the previous year. An eight point Mediterranean Diet (MD) score was constructed based on participants intake of fish, vegetables, fruits, legumes, cereals, the ratio of monounsaturated to saturated fat, meats and alcohol. (A score of 1 is low adherence while a score of 8 is high.)

Information on height and weight was collected at the beginning and end of the study. Over the three year period, 8% of women and 7% of men who were overweight at the beginning of the study were found to be obese. Those who were of normal weight became obese at a high rate as well (14% of women and 23% of men).

When the researchers looked at those with higher MD scores, however, they found a dramatic reduction in the rate of obesity. This was similar in women and men with about a 30% less chance of becoming obese for those with having scores in the 6 - 8 range.

What this means for you:

We know that eating a Mediterranean diet can help prevent disease. Using ingredients like those in the MD can also help you reduce the risk of becoming obese. This doesn't mean that you are only going to eat Greek Salads. The diet is based on ingredients that you know and are easily used in your own recipes. Here's more information in two "Dr. Tim Says..." articles: Mediterranean Diet (Part 1) and Mediterranean Diet (Part 2).

First posted: October 31, 2006