Studies in thousands of adults have highlighted the protective role of the Mediterranean diet on abdominal obesity and a slew of other metabolic syndrome characteristics. But, even though evidence in adults abounds, the number of studies in adolescents that have examined the same beneficial effects has been disappointingly low.
I vehemently believe that the Mediterranean diet is the best diet possible for adolescents — something already proved for adults on a global level.
This gap in scientific literature came to further cover a new Greek study titled “Mediterranean Diet Decreases Adolescent Waist Circumference.” The study, which appeared in the European Journal of Clinical Investigation, found that increased adherence to the Med diet (containing increased daily consumption of olive oil, fruit or fruit juice, pasta or rice and yogurts or cheese) was inversely linked with waist circumference, pointing to a potential of multicomponent-multilevel school-based interventions to tackle adolescent obesity.
A representative sample of 1,610 adolescents aged 12 – 17 years in 23 public high schools in three municipalities in the Attica region of Greece underwent dietary assessment with the use of the Mediterranean Diet Quality Index in children and adolescents, blood pressure assessment and screening for general and abdominal obesity by measuring body mass index, waist circumference and waist-to-height ratio, at baseline and following a six-month school-based intervention.
“After anthropometric and nutritional assessment, participants underwent a three-component educational intervention for promotion of (a) balanced nutrition according to the principles of Mediterranean diet, (b) regular physical activity, (c) healthy body image and healthy eating behaviors,” the study’s co-producer, Flora Bacopoulou, told Olive Oil Times.
Bacopoulou, an assistant professor of pediatrics and adolescent medicine at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens School of Medicine, explained that later a multidisciplinary approach from adolescent medicine health professionals was used to instill the necessary concepts in the participating students, at the same time reinforcing these concepts through influencing the “three levels” that, in turn, influence adolescents’ health: parents, teachers, and school/community health staff.
“Over a period of six months adolescent participants attended thirty-six educational sessions, parents participated in nine sessions and teachers and health professionals in two-day workshops that were organized separately for each school, while attendees were provided guidebooks for adolescent nutrition and physical activity. A website was specifically designed to support participants’ education,” explained the scientist.
Echoing the results of a previous study in young Spaniards where high adherence to Mediterranean diet was also associated with more decreased waist circumference, the research established that increased adherence to the dietary pattern was inversely linked with waist circumference in both genders.
“I vehemently believe that Mediterranean diet is the best diet possible for adolescents and this is something already proved for adults on a global level,” said Bacopoulou.
“For adolescent health, the scientific literature is scarce, let alone the fact that Med diet is constantly being abandoned by young people. Schools are designated places for promoting intervention in order to prevent childhood and adolescent obesity,” she explained.
“In our study we placed heavy emphasis on nutritional education, physical activity and body image awareness, targeting all different levels of influence on adolescent health, their parents, teachers, and school/community health staff. Such interventions using a systems-level approach, as well as interactions and relationships between levels, show the greatest impact for primary prevention.”