A study found animals on the Mediterranean diet (MedDiet) chose not to eat all the food available to them. Consequently, they maintained a normal weight.

“By comparison, the animals on a Western diet ate far more than they needed and gained weight,” Carol A Shively, the principal author and a professor of pathology at Wake Forest School of Medicine, said.

Eating a Mediterranean diet should allow people to enjoy their food and not overeat, which is such a problem in this country.- Carol A Shively, study author

Earlier studies exploring the influence of diet on caloric intake have been based largely on two kinds of investigations: animal experiments involving nonhuman diets and human experiments involving self-reported dietary information, which is unreliable. The new clinical trial was the first to compare the long-term effects of the MedDiet and Western diet on obesity, Shively said.

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In the investigation, which was published in the journal Obesity, the subjects were nonhuman primates; and the intervention period was 38 months, a timeframe that equates to nine human years. Researchers formulated the animals’ food to reflect either the MedDiet, where fat and protein are derived mostly from plant sources, or the Western diet, where the nutrients come mainly from animal sources. The team permitted all the animals to eat as much food as they desired.

Results showed that primates on the MedDiet consumed less calories, as well as had lower body weight and fat than those on the Western diet, Shively said. Moreover, primates on the Western diet had insulin abnormalities that are indicative of a pre-diabetes state. The findings are the first evidence that the MedDiet helps prevent overeating, obesity and pre-diabetes in comparison to the Western diet.

Additional findings suggested the MedDiet is also protective against non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which can lead to cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer. Obesity is a primary cause of NAFLD.

“Diet composition is a critically important contributor to the U.S. public health, and unfortunately those at the greatest risk for obesity and related costly chronic diseases also have the poorest quality diets,” Shively said.

“Eating a Mediterranean diet should allow people to enjoy their food and not overeat, which is such a problem in this country. We hope our findings will encourage people to eat healthier foods that are also enjoyable, and improve human health,” she added.

In an interview with Olive Oil Times, Shively shared her postulations on why following the MedDiet might lead to less food consumption.

“I believe that components of our Western diet are designed by their manufacturers to be hyper-palatable – with a high content of sugar, fat and salt, which we like – so we’ll buy their products,” she said. “The result is that we eat too much.”

“In contrast, I think the MedDiet does not have those characteristics,” she added. “Please note, though, that this theory remains a hypothesis that is yet to be tested. That said, I think the MedDiet also has several features that make it very satisfying without overconsumption, and fiber may be one of them.”




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