Med Diet More Effective in Obesity Prevention than Other Diets, Study Finds

The literature review found that the conviviality of the Mediterranean diet and its focus on consuming healthy fats help make it more effective than low-fat diets.
Vegetables at a market stall on a boat in Aegina island port in Greece
By Paolo DeAndreis
Mar. 27, 2023 14:10 UTC

An exten­sive review of aca­d­e­mic research has shed new light on the Mediterranean diet’s sig­nif­i­cant role in pre­vent­ing obe­sity.

According to the authors of a study pub­lished in Experimental Gerontology, a sig­nif­i­cant body of tri­als, obser­va­tional stud­ies and meta-analy­ses showed a greater reduc­tion of body weight and body mass index (BMI) com­pared to the results obtained through the adop­tion of other diets.

People adher­ing to the Mediterranean diet tend to lose weight over a long period of time. Furthermore, they show that adher­ing to the Mediterranean diet usu­ally pre­vents some­one from becom­ing over­weight or obese.- Ligia J. Dominguez, pro­fes­sor, University of Enna fac­ulty of med­i­cine and surgery

The researchers believe that other dietary guide­lines might neglect some of the most impact­ful char­ac­ter­is­tics of the Mediterranean diet.

Most of the time, when we talk about nutri­tion and dietary habits, we tend to focus on very spe­cific aspects, such as the calo­ries found in a spe­cific food,” Ligia J. Dominguez, a pro­fes­sor at the University of Enna’s fac­ulty of med­i­cine and surgery, and co-author of the study, told Olive Oil Times.

See Also:Health News

The Mediterranean diet teaches us that there is so much more to a healthy diet than the con­tents of food,” she added. The Mediterranean diet entails not only food but also a Mediterranean lifestyle.”

One of its main aspects is social­ity, which is a cru­cial part of the Mediterranean diet,” Dominguez con­tin­ued. It means eat­ing together, cook­ing together and adding a strong social con­text to the meal itself, which also might trans­late into eat­ing less and choos­ing qual­ity food.”

According to the researcher, stud­ies show how phys­i­cal activ­ity asso­ci­ated with the Mediterranean diet and the social aspects of eat­ing adds a layer of pos­i­tiv­ity that has a sig­nif­i­cant impact on patients.

A Mediterranean lifestyle rep­re­sents a multi-dimen­sional approach, an anti­dote to many of the most com­mon trig­gers of eat­ing com­pul­sions, such as emo­tional voids or spe­cific patholo­gies,” Dominguez said.

Having said this, inves­ti­gat­ing fats, salt, calo­ries and the many other food con­tents is, of course, essen­tial for under­stand­ing nutri­tion,” she added. Based on such inves­ti­ga­tions, dietary guide­lines world­wide have sug­gested and still pro­pose low-fat diets, as such diets reduce fat con­sump­tion, which is rich in calo­ries.”

Decades after imple­ment­ing such guide­lines, though, there is no sign that the obe­sity pan­demic is being cur­tailed,” Dominguez con­tin­ued.

According to the World Health Organization, more than one bil­lion peo­ple are obese, a three-fold increase in the last 40 years.

In 2016, about 13 per­cent of the adult pop­u­la­tion in the world was obese, a con­di­tion asso­ci­ated with many dis­eases. Obesity is con­sid­ered one of the most rel­e­vant global pub­lic health prob­lems.

This trend should tell us that guide­lines based on low-fat diets do not work,” Dominguez said. People around the world are not show­ing any com­pli­ance with such rigid rec­om­men­da­tions.”

Be it a low-fat diet or a diet which excludes car­bo­hy­drates, most peo­ple who try to fol­low such harsh dietary regimes are found to drop out after a brief period of time,” she added.

According to Dominguez, when diet results are con­sid­ered over an extended period, stud­ies show how the dif­fer­ences between low-fat and low-car­bo­hy­drate diets nar­row con­sid­er­ably.

After ini­tial suc­cess in weight loss, most patients of such dietary regimes return to pre­vi­ous dietary habits.


Sometimes they even fall vic­tim to the rebound effect when drop­ping out of a diet regime, end­ing up eat­ing way more than they used to,” Dominguez said.

Trials and long-term stud­ies have shown that the per­cent­age of patients drop­ping out of low-fat and low-car­bo­hy­drate diets is sim­i­lar,” she added.

Studies show that a dif­fer­ent approach might yield dif­fer­ent results.

A healthy nutri­tion pat­tern which is also tasty and based on fresh pro­duce strictly con­nected to the local area, such as the Mediterranean diet, is way more appeal­ing for peo­ple,” Dominguez said.

According to the researcher, one of the rea­sons many nutri­tion­ists might have neglected the Mediterranean diet is due to its unreg­u­lated fat con­tent.

Most dietary rec­om­men­da­tions around the world fix the max­i­mum accept­able amount of calo­ries as fat at about 30 per­cent,” Dominguez said. The Mediterranean diet sits between 35 and 45 per­cent.”

She indi­cated that this higher per­cent­age of rec­om­mended fat con­sump­tion has likely impacted the global uptake of the Mediterranean diet for los­ing weight.

Still, all the stud­ies we researched – meta-analy­ses, ran­dom­ized tri­als, or even obser­va­tional stud­ies – all assess that the Mediterranean diet does not pro­voke any weight gain,” Dominguez said.

What is more, all of those stud­ies show that peo­ple adher­ing to the Mediterranean diet tend to lose weight over a long period of time,” she added. Furthermore, they show that adher­ing to the Mediterranean diet usu­ally pre­vents some­one from becom­ing over­weight or obese.”

As a result, Dominguez believes it is more impor­tant to focus on what types of fat are con­sumed in a diet rather than how much fat is con­sumed.

Not all fats are equal,” Dominguez said. Extra vir­gin olive oil and its unique prop­er­ties play a key role, as it has a highly ben­e­fi­cial impact thanks to the monoun­sat­u­rated oleic acid and other key con­tents such as polyphe­nols.”

However, she added that aware­ness of the health impacts of dif­fer­ent types of fats is increas­ing in the nutri­tion and weight loss fields.

Increasingly, the focus is shift­ing from the goal of quick weight loss to the idea of estab­lish­ing a healthy nutri­tion pat­tern where weight loss can hap­pen across a longer period of time,” Dominguez said.

Still, the key for the suc­cess of such an inno­v­a­tive approach proved to be propos­ing a more inter­est­ing and sat­is­fy­ing dietary pat­tern to patients, des­tined to fos­ter dietary com­pli­ance and carry results,” she con­cluded.


Related Articles