A recent study from eight European countries shows evidence that children who consume a Mediterranean diet may be 15 percent less likely to be overweight or obese.

File this under “no sur­prise:” A recent study from eight European coun­tries has shown evi­dence that chil­dren who con­sume a Mediterranean diet may be 15 per­cent less likely to be over­weight or obese.

The results of the study con­ducted by Dr. Gianluca Tognon from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden were first pre­sented at the European Congress on Obesity in Sofia, Bulgaria last June.

Researchers exam­ined data gath­ered from the IDEFICS study, a European project that lasted from September 2006 to February 2012 with the goal of assess­ing the prob­lem of obe­sity in chil­dren.

Data from IDEFICS included height, weight, body fat per­cent­age and waist cir­cum­fer­ence from chil­dren in Spain, Italy, Cyprus, Germany, Belgium, Hungary, Estonia and Sweden. In rela­tion to the children’s diets, par­ents filled out a ques­tion­naire sup­plied from IDEFICS that defined the fre­quency with which 43 com­mon foods were con­sumed. Dr. Tongon’s team gath­ered addi­tional dietary data by inter­view­ing a sam­ple of par­ents from the IDEFICS study.

Children were then scored on their adher­ence to foods con­sid­ered to be sta­ples of a Mediterranean diet, includ­ing fish, veg­eta­bles, fruits, cereal grains and nuts. A sin­gle point was given for every Mediterranean food group eaten, and another point was given if chil­dren had a low intake of foods not con­sid­ered typ­i­cal of the Mediterranean diet like meat and dairy.

The results of Dr. Tognon’s study showed that chil­dren with a higher num­ber of points were 10 to 15 per­cent less likely to be over­weight or obese com­pared to chil­dren with a lower num­ber of points. These chil­dren were also less likely to go through major changes on the BMI scale or gain body fat.

The study also showed that Italian chil­dren were the most likely to con­sume a Mediterranean diet and in Sweden, where the chil­dren had the high­est fre­quen­cies of intakes of
cereal grains, fruit, nuts and veg­eta­bles.

“The take home mes­sage,” Dr. Tognon said, “is that there is a need to rec­om­mend to chil­dren a dietary pat­tern, par­tic­u­larly in the Mediterranean coun­tries where peo­ple might still be con­vinced that they are fol­low­ing a diet like this, which is often not true any­more.”


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