Med Diet Protects Teens From Abdominal Obesity

Increased adherence to Mediterranean diet was found to be associated with decreased waist circumference in teenage boys and girls.

By Stav Dimitropoulos
May. 8, 2017 08:51 UTC

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.- Flora Bacopoulou, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens

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.”


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