For years, the Mediterranean diet was considered a healthy option for losing weight. But new research suggests that the diet could be doing more harm than good. Can You Lose Weight with a Mediterranean Diet? Read on to discover the facts.
What Is the Mediterranean Diet?
The Mediterranean diet is a diet that originated in the Mediterranean region of Europe. The diet is based on plant-based foods and incorporates elements of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cooking styles. The diet recommends eating lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and olive oil. It also restricts the intake of meat and dairy products. Studies suggest that the Mediterranean diet improves cardiovascular health and reduces the risk of diabetes. In the United Kingdom, the National Health Service even recommends that people follow a Mediterranean diet to manage their weight. So it’s no wonder that the Mediterranean diet has been linked to weight loss for nearly a century!
The Trouble With the Mediterranean Diet
However, recent research questions this stereotype. A team of experts from the Universities of Barcelona and Nottingham conducted a randomized controlled trial to compare the effects of a traditional Mediterranean diet with a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet on overweight and obese adults. The study, which was published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that while the low-carbohydrate diet did result in some weight loss, this was not significant. What’s more, subjects on the Mediterranean diet experienced an increase in total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and abdominal adiposity. These findings are important because they suggest that following the Mediterranean diet may not be the best option for losing weight.
Why Has The Research Been Disputed?
Prior to the study authors’ findings, extensive research suggested that the Mediterranean diet is a healthy diet for weight loss. Two landmark studies from the 1960s, the Seven Countries Study and the GISSI-Prevention Trial, provided evidence that the diet could be effective in battling obesity. The first study, which investigated heart disease and obesity rates in seven countries, found that people living in Mediterranean countries had the lowest rates of obesity and heart disease. The second study, which evaluated the effects of different diets on heart disease and obesity, concluded that a Mediterranean diet was the best option for combating these health issues. Although these studies provided evidence that the Mediterranean diet could be effective in aiding weight loss, they also had several limitations. First, the studies were conducted on Caucasian populations, so the results may not apply to other groups.
What Does The New Research Reveal?
With the research published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, we now know that while the Mediterranean diet can be a healthy choice for certain groups, it may not be the best option for everyone. The new study indicates that for overweight and obese adults, a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet may be the better option. Here’s why.
- The participants in the study were overweight or obese. More than half of the subjects were obese.
- The dieters were randomly assigned to one of the three groups. The groups were of similar size and composition.
- Each group followed a different dietary regimen for a period of 12 weeks. The three groups followed a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet, a Mediterranean-type diet, or an individualized diet based on the participants’ preferences.
- After 12 weeks, the researchers measured the participants’ body weight, fat content, and insulin levels. They also administered a glucose tolerance test and an oral glucose tolerance test.
The results of the study showed that while all three diets resulted in weight loss, the dieters’ average body weight loss was greatest on the Mediterranean diet. The researchers also noted that the participants on the Mediterranean diet had the best glycemic control throughout the trial and experienced the lowest levels of insulin. The low carbohydrate, high fat diet resulted in better insulin sensitivity and lessened the need for insulin to lower glucose levels. What’s more, the dieters on this type of diet decreased their cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) levels the most and experienced the greatest improvement in their triglyceride levels. The researchers concluded that due to the beneficial effect on cholesterol and the risk of coronary heart disease, a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet is the preferred option for overweight and obese adults. But while the Mediterranean diet decreased the participants’ body weight and improved their cardiovascular health, it didn’t help with their total cholesterol, LDL-C, or triglycerides. This would make it less beneficial for individuals already following a healthy diet, like the Mediterranean diet.
The takeaway from this research is that while all three diets resulted in weight loss and improved the participants’ health, the dieters on the Mediterranean diet experienced the greatest weight loss and improved their health the most. A low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet is the preferred option for overweight and obese adults because it helps to control diabetes and improves insulin sensitivity. But for people already on a healthy diet, the Mediterranean diet may meet the needs of those seeking to further increase their health by losing weight.
What About Fiber?
In addition to looking at the effects of different dietary patterns on cholesterol levels, the researchers also evaluated the effects of the diets on the participants’ fiber intakes and glycemic control. They found that while the glucose tolerance was not affected by the diets, the participants on the Mediterranean diet and the low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet increased their fiber intakes significantly and better maintained their glycemic control. The participants on the individualized diet did not change their fiber intakes and had the lowest insulin levels. The researchers concluded that for overweight and obese adults, a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet may be easier to follow than a Mediterranean diet and still result in beneficial effects on health. While the benefits of the Mediterranean diet on lowering cholesterol and improving cardiovascular health have been proven, some evidence suggests that consuming more fiber could improve insulin sensitivity and glycemic control.
Does The Research Apply To Pregnant Women?
The researchers also evaluated the effects of the diets during pregnancy. They found that while all three diets were suitable options for pregnant women, the Mediterranean diet offered the best combination of benefits and risks to the fetus. The benefits of the Mediterranean diet include the ability to regulate blood sugar levels and cholesterol synthesis in the body. The diet also provides beneficial fats for the brain and eyes as well as vitamin E, which helps the immune system function properly.
On the other hand, the risks associated with the Mediterranean diet include the presence of antioxidants in fruit, which could lead to an increase in free radicals in the body. These radicals could cause cell damage and possibly lead to health issues in later life. The researchers also noted that consuming large amounts of fiber could cause diarrhea in pregnant women.
How Does The New Research Affect You?
The study results support the existing evidence that the Mediterranean diet is associated with weight loss and improved health. However, they also indicate that for some people, this diet may not be the best option for weight loss or improving their health. The research suggests that for overweight and obese adults, a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet may be a better option. For people already following a healthy diet, the Mediterranean diet could be a good option – as long as they aren’t consuming large amounts of fiber.