Med Diet Can Cut the Risk of Obesity Almost in Half

Spanish scientists found that adhering to the Mediterranean diet might decrease the risk of obesity by 43 percent.

Jun. 13, 2017
By Mary West

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New research has indi­cated that fol­low­ing a pro-veg­e­tar­ian diet, rich in plant foods while low in ani­mal foods, can reduce the risk of obe­sity by almost half. This eat­ing plan includes whole grains, fruits, veg­eta­bles and olive oil, all of which are com­po­nents of the Mediterranean diet (MedDiet).

Eating the nutri­tion-dense foods of the MedDiet sim­ply serves to crowd out higher calo­rie, lower qual­ity, high-glycemic processed foods known to cause inflam­ma­tion and obe­sity.- Vickie Modica, natur­o­pathic physi­cian

As this approach to weight loss doesn’t require count­ing calo­ries or self-depri­va­tion, it has long-term sus­tain­abil­ity. Instead of being a sys­tem that involves gim­micks, pills or potions, the MedDiet is a lifestyle of eat­ing nutri­tious food. In con­trast with some weight loss mea­sures that carry health risks or side effects, this eat­ing plan is renowned for its health ben­e­fits. For these rea­sons, it’s the best pos­si­ble strat­egy for weight man­age­ment.

The study at the University of Navarra and the Carlos III Institute of Health in Spain tracked 16,000 peo­ple for an aver­age of ten years. Participants were required to com­plete food sur­veys to record their intake of seven plant food groups and five ani­mal food groups. The plant foods were veg­eta­bles, fruits, whole grains, legumes, olive oil, nuts and pota­toes; and the ani­mal foods were eggs, ani­mal fats, dairy, meat, fish and other seafood. During the study’s time span, 584 indi­vid­u­als became obese.

Analysis of the data found the higher the con­sump­tion of plant foods in the diet, com­pared to the con­sump­tion of meats and ani­mal fats, the lower the like­li­hood of becom­ing over­weight. The 20 per­cent of those who ate the most plant foods had a 43 per­cent lower risk of devel­op­ing obe­sity, com­pared to the 20 per­cent who ate the least plant foods.

Participants with the low­est risk didn’t com­pletely elim­i­nate meat, but their intake was much lower than the quan­tity typ­i­cally found in the west­ern diet. Those in this group also ate plenty of fish, which is an impor­tant part of the MedDiet.


Our study sug­gests that plant-based diets are asso­ci­ated with sub­stan­tially lower risk of devel­op­ing obe­sity. This sup­ports cur­rent rec­om­men­da­tions to shift to diets rich in plant foods, with lower intake of ani­mal foods,” said the study’s authors. The find­ings were pre­sented at the European Congress on Obesity in Porto, Portugal.

What char­ac­ter­is­tics of the MedDiet make it espe­cially con­ducive to weight man­age­ment? Eating the nutri­tion-dense foods of the MedDiet sim­ply serves to crowd out higher calo­rie, lower qual­ity, high-glycemic processed foods known to cause inflam­ma­tion and obe­sity,” natur­o­pathic physi­cian Vickie Modica of Seattle, Washington told Olive Oil Times. In this way, it’s a sim­ple mat­ter of more healthy food leav­ing less room for unhealthy, dis­ease caus­ing foods.”

Perhaps more inter­est­ingly, we’re see­ing evi­dence that these same diets affect the gut microflora in a way that seems to have an anti-obe­sity effect. The details of how these bac­te­ria sig­nal changes to our endocrine and ner­vous sys­tems are cur­rently being researched and hold promise in obe­sity pre­ven­tion,” she said.

The Mediterranean diet is com­monly con­sumed in Spain, Italy and Greece. It’s com­prised of three serv­ings of fruit and four serv­ings of veg­eta­bles per day, along with gen­er­ous amounts of olive oil, nuts, seeds, whole grains and legumes. The plan usu­ally includes at least four serv­ings of fish per week, but it lim­its meat to no more than three serv­ings per week.

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