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By now you know that I am a fan of Mediterranean Diet. There's a lot to offer but best of all is great food.
When most people think about a diet, they think about weight loss and there are tons of diets out there. Most of them will help you lose weight and the research on losing weight over the last decade has become pretty clear – weight loss is about calories. It is really simple: consume fewer calories and lose weight.
There have been dozens of studies detailing the effect of a Mediterranean style diet on weight. In one, a group of researchers used information gathered in Spain about dietary patterns and detailed the effect of Mediterranean diet on weight gain. (J. Nutr. 136: 2934–2938, 2006) This was a large study with almost 28,000 participants (about 60% women). At the beginning of the study nutritionists collected information on dietary intake during the previous year. An eight point Mediterranean Diet score was used based on participants' intake of fish, vegetables, fruits, legumes cereals, the ratio of monounsaturated to saturated fat, meats and alcohol. As with other Mediterranean Diet scores, a score of 1 indicates low adherence while a score of 8 was a perfect score.
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 Mediterranean Diet scores, however, they found a dramatic reduction in the rates of obesity. This was similar in women and men with about a 30% lower chance of becoming obese for those with having scores in the 6 - 8 range.
If following a Mediterranean style diet can help keep you from gaining weight, can it also help you lose weight? The answer is yes. In a very good quality study researchers compared low-fat, low-carbohydrate and Mediterranean style diet. Those in the low-carb and Mediterranean arms of the study lost weight at about the same rate: about 4.5 kilos. (N Engl J Med 2008;359:229-41)
Reviews of other weight loss studies come to a similar conclusion – eat better, lose weight. A Mediterranean style diet, however, offers you so much more in the way of variety.
It also offers marked improvement over other diets in important health parameters, including abdominal adiposity (belly fat), blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes. A very large analysis of studies that included more than 500,000 participants showed that following a Mediterranean style diet leads a lower risk of Metabolic Syndrome, lower waist circumference, improved cholesterol profiles, lower blood pressure and lower blood sugars. (J Am Coll Cardiol 2011;57:1299–313)
Will you lose more weight than on other diets? Possibly not. The research on weight loss shows us that people lose weight when they diet, and it doesn't matter all that much what type of diet it is. This is also true for a Mediterranean style diet.
You do, however, get to eat real food and not follow some complicated, restrictive fad diet. Weight loss, real food, loss of belly fat, improved cholesterol and blood pressure – you can have great food and feel better.