Chef Tim Says...

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Dr. Tim Says...

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Dr. Tim Says....

Mediterranean Diet and Weight Loss

The mission of Dr. Gourmet is not really about weight loss. Don't get me wrong, weight loss is important, but I feel that far too much focus is put on dieting only for weight loss. Indeed, the folks who published my last book insisted on using the phrase "weight loss plan" in the title. People write us all the time and tell us how many pounds they have lost using Dr. Gourmet books and the Web site - and we love to hear your success stories! - but there's no real magic about weight loss in and of itself.

Forget everything you have heard about weight loss other than the following: if you consume fewer calories and burn more calories, you will lose weight. For almost everyone, it really is that simple.

How about the Mediterranean diet? Can it help with weight loss over and above just lowering calories?

There is great evidence that the Mediterranean diet can help you lose weight. This is because recipes made using Mediterranean diet principles are less calorie dense, have more flavor and are more filling for the same number of calories! Many of these studies compare Mediterranean diet with other plans, including low-carbohydrate and low-fat diets. In some cases researchers are looking at things other than weight loss — most often heart disease, cardiovascular disease markers, metabolic syndrome or diabetes.

In one study that specifically evaluated weight loss, researchers compared Mediterranean style diet with low-carbohydrate and low-fat diets. Those participants in each of the groups following the Med-diet and low-carb diet plans lost weight at about the same rate (the low-fat plan showed much less weight loss).1 If the weight loss is similar, then why should you care? I believe that Mediterranean style diet offers more variety and flexibility in what you actually eat. If weight loss is the key for you, that variety can help you sustain your progress.

A meta-analysis of seven studies came to a similar conclusion with weight loss being slightly greater in the Mediterranean diet than in those following low-carbohydrate diets.2 Interestingly, the improvement in cholesterol scores is often slightly better with the Mediterranean diet, while those following the low-carb diet have slightly improved blood sugars. Sometimes the weight loss is marginal, but in almost every study that looked at weight participants lose weight even if it is only a few pounds.3

Those who write us to tell us about their weight loss also tell us about improvements in their blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol profiles. Our experience with these anecdotes is not a scientific study by any stretch, but those stories are well supported by the research.

Have you followed The Dr. Gourmet Diet Plan or "Just Tell Me What to Eat!" and improved your weight or your health? Share your story with us!

1. Shai, I. et al. Weight loss with a low-carbohydrate, Mediterranean, or low-fat diet. N Engl J Med 359, 229-241 (2008).

2. Nordmann, A. J. et al. Meta-Analysis Comparing Mediterranean to Low-Fat Diets for Modification of Cardiovascular Risk Factors. AJM 124, 841-851.e2 (2011).

3. Estruch, R. et al. Effects of a Mediterranean-style diet on cardiovascular risk factors: a randomized trial. Ann Intern Med 145, 1-11 (2006).