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Mediterranean diet high in healthy fats wins weight loss battle

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The Mediterranean diet is winning gold stars all round!

It has been found recently to have positive impact eating like a Nona has on reducing the incidence of breast cancer,2 and possibly its recurrence. Fantastic!

The diet has also been shown to reduce incidence of cardiovascular disease and do wonders for cognitive health.3

And most recently, a new study has been released looking at the impact of the diet on weight loss – but with a tweak.

High fat hits home

The prescribed Mediterranean diet is packed full of nutrient dense whole foods, often enjoyed in the company of others, at a leisurely pace, with a little light exercise as the icing on the Med cake.

To break it down, eating Mediterranean is largely comprised of vegetables, fruit, legumes, seeds, nuts, herbs, spices, whole grains, seafood and extra virgin olive oil. Red and processed meat intake is low, packaged food limited, and alcohol it kept to a minimum.

A study just released as part of the massive PREDIMED trial, upped the ante with increased fat content. Researchers found that the higher fat content proved more effective in reducing weight than any calorie counting effort. Wow!

Not only that, waist circumference dropped was less when compared with the control diet. This is particularly important, as visceral abdominal fat is indicative of organ fat. Fat on those organs that sit around the middle body and work darn hard to keep us alive. Fat on those organs such as the liver, pancreas and kidneys.

Visceral abdominal fat incites inflammation, can disrupt hormone function, and associated with conditions such as dementia, cardiovascular disease, sleeping issues and others. Visceral fat that accumulates around the belly is different to the subcutaneous fat, and downright nasty.

But back to the study!

The randomised control trial, lead by Dr Ramon Estruch, is a solid 5 year long piece of work involving 7447 individuals who were overweight or obese, had type 2 diabetes and three or more cardiovascular risk factors. The participants were assigned to one of the three groups:

  1. Olive oil supplementation
  2. Nut supplementation
  3. Control advised to reduce dietary fat.

What is so interesting about this study is calorie consumption was unrestricted in the olive oil and nut groups. And who came out on top? When compared with the control, it was the olive oil group, with an average 0.43kg lighter than the control.

Plant based, minimally processed fats seem to be doing some good!

To remain objective, however, it is important to note that an olive oil and a nut producer in part funded the study. This may have been simply to provide the products to study participants, and private funding is not uncommon, and often a necessary part of research.

So why is does this style of eating seem so effective?

We must mention that increasing intake of a minimally processed oil that is predominately monounsaturated fats seems to be a major factor for what sets the Mediterranean diet apart, and connected to many of the beneficial health outcomes.

Not all fats are create equal, so we need to be mindful that smashing high amounts of pork crackling and canola oil will likely not produce the same outcome.

Whole food and a leisurely take on creating meals and consuming them seems to be cornerstones of the Mediterranean diet. And first cold pressed olive oil!

So let’s take a piece of the Med pie by slowing down, eating food that has been minimally processed, cooked with love, and enjoyed!

By Angela Johnson (BHSc Nut. Med.)

 

References:

  1. Estruch, Ramon et al. 2016, ‘Effect of a high-fat Mediterranean diet on bodyweight and waist circumference: a prespecified secondary outcomes analysis of the PREDIMED randomised controlled trial’, The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, [Epub ahead of print].
  2. Toledo, E, Salas-Salvadó, J, Donat-Vargas, C, Buil-Cosiales, P, Estruch, R, Ros, E, Corella, D, Fitó, M, Hu, F, Arós, F, Gómez-Gracia, E, Romaguera, D, Ortega-Calvo, M, Serra-Majem, L, Pintó, X, Schröder, H, Basora, J, Sorlí, J, Bulló, M, Serra-Mir, M, & Martínez-González, M 2015, ‘Mediterranean Diet and Invasive Breast Cancer Risk Among Women at High Cardiovascular Risk in the PREDIMED Trial: A Randomized Clinical Trial’, JAMA Internal Medicine, 175, 11, pp. 1752-1760.
  3. Trichopoulou, A, Martínez-González, MA, Tong, TY, Forouhi, NG, Khandelwal, S, Prabhakaran, D, Mozaffarian, D, & de Lorgeril, M 2014, ‘Definitions and potential health benefits of the Mediterranean diet: views from experts around the world’, BMC Medicine, vol. 12, no. 1, pp. 112-112 1p
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