Health

Mediterranean Diet with EVOO Outperforms Low-Fat Diet for Weight Loss

New research shows a high-fat Mediterranean diet with extra virgin olive oil increases weight loss in people with chronic health conditions.

Jun. 13, 2016
By Jedha Dening

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Fat has long been con­sid­ered the evil enemy in the human diet. Largely because it has been per­ceived as a causative fac­tor in the grow­ing obe­sity epi­demic. Being that it has a higher nutri­ent den­sity com­pared to pro­teins and car­bo­hy­drates — one gram fat equat­ing to nine calo­ries, pro­tein and car­bo­hy­drates only four calo­ries per gram — it’s an easy assump­tion to make.

In recent years, how­ever, researchers have become aware that a calo­rie is not a calo­rie. Mean­ing, calo­ries from junk food are not going to have the same effect on human bio­chem­istry as calo­ries from fruit, veg­eta­bles and other nutri­tious foods, includ­ing fats. Despite nutri­tional knowl­edge increas­ing, the main­stream West­ern dietary advice is still entrenched with the idea that a low-fat diet is the rec­om­mended choice for the major­ity of indi­vid­u­als, par­tic­u­larly when it comes to weight loss.
See more: Olive Oil Health Ben­e­fits
Yet many new stud­ies are show­ing that it could quite be the oppo­site, espe­cially when healthy veg­etable fats — monoun­sat­u­rated and polyun­sat­u­rated — make up a large pro­por­tion of fat con­sump­tion. The Mediter­ranean diet (Med­Diet) has long been con­sid­ered one of the health­i­est dietary pat­terns, with ample research sup­port­ing its con­sump­tion and the inclu­sion of extra vir­gin olive oil (EVOO) for a wide range of health ben­e­fits. New research has now shown that a high-fat Med­Diet rich in EVOO out­per­forms a low-fat diet for weight loss in a pop­u­la­tion suf­fer­ing chronic health con­di­tions.

An analy­sis recently pub­lished in The Lancet of sec­ondary out­comes from the PREDIMED ran­dom­ized con­trolled trial looked at 7,447 par­tic­i­pants, both men and women rang­ing from 55 – 80 years old, 90 per­cent of which were either over­weight or obese and had either type 2 dia­betes or mul­ti­ple car­dio­vas­cu­lar risk fac­tors. The study assessed changes in body weight and waist cir­cum­fer­ence over the 5‑year trial period and com­pared three inter­ven­tions, a Med­Diet with EVOO, a Med­Diet sup­ple­mented with nuts, and a con­trol (low-fat) diet. There were no restric­tions or rec­om­men­da­tions advised for daily energy/ calo­rie con­sump­tion or phys­i­cal activ­ity.

Par­tic­i­pants in the two Med­Diet groups were directed by dieti­tians to increase their fat intake by 40 per­cent, while the con­trol (low-fat) group was directed to con­sume no more than 30 per­cent of their daily energy require­ments in fat. Though energy restric­tion was not required, it decreased in all groups with the largest decrease in the con­trol (low fat) group. All groups had an aver­age of 40 per­cent fat intake at base­line. Fat intake reduced by 2.6 per­cent in the con­trol (low-fat) group, and increased by 1.8 per­cent, from monoun­sat­u­rated and polyun­sat­u­rated fats, in both Med­Diet groups

The results showed the MedDiet+EVOO group lost 0.88 kg com­pared to 0.60 kg in the con­trol group and 0.40 kg in the MedDiet+nuts group. Waist cir­cum­fer­ence increased slightly for all three groups but this was less for both Med­Diet groups (0.85 cm in the MedDiet+EVOO and 0.37 cm in the MedDiet+Nuts group), and a greater increase of 1.2 cm in the con­trol (low-fat) group.

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These results of the analy­sis high­lighted the fact that a non-calo­rie restricted high-fat diet does not increase weight gain or vis­ceral fat (belly fat) accu­mu­la­tion. They fur­ther con­firm that at a prac­ti­cal level, that rec­om­mend­ing a higher intake of dietary fat within a healthy dietary pat­tern such as a Med­Diet does not lead to fur­ther health impli­ca­tions and can often be an eas­ier dietary pat­tern for indi­vid­u­als to sus­tain than a calo­rie restricted low-fat diet.


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