Doctors frequently advise obese patients, particularly those with metabolic syndrome, to lose weight by adopting a healthy lifestyle. While low-fat and low-carb diets help in the short-term, research doesn’t support their long-term benefits. A new study found the combination of the Mediterranean diet (MedDiet) and exercise promoted weight loss and reduced cardiovascular risk, benefits that were maintained after one year.
In the research published in the journal Diabetes Care, scientists studied 626 overweight patients between the ages of 55 and 75. The participants had at least three of the following cardiovascular risk factors: high blood pressure, abdominal obesity, high blood sugar levels, low HDL cholesterol and high triglycerides. Researchers monitored changes in fat accumulation, body weight and an array of cardiovascular risk indicators throughout 12 months.
The results showed that consumption of the MedDiet, which is naturally low in calories, led to at least a five-percent weight reduction. In addition, the participants experienced improvements in inflammatory markers and glucose metabolism compared to those who didn’t follow the diet. Moreover, patients who had diabetics or a risk of diabetes enjoyed especially high glucose control benefits.
According to the research team, the most weight loss was noted after 12 months, a finding that shows the weight reduction was maintained over time. They concluded that the MedDiet and a regular exercise program may produce long-term advantages for cardiovascular disease, which would translate into fewer deaths from heart attacks and strokes.
Olive Oil Times spoke with Michael Ozner, a board-certified cardiologist, specializing in heart disease prevention, and author of The Complete Mediterranean Diet. He shared his perspective on the value of the eating plan:
“Fad diets like low-carb diets allow people to lose weight quickly, but we need to look at their sustainability and their impact on long-term health. Such diets are hard to follow over a long period, and they carry cardiovascular risks. This is why, as a cardiologist, I prefer the MedDiet, which can be used from the very young to the very old. It’s the ideal eating pattern because it promotes weight management, along with multiple other wellness benefits.
“The MedDiet has been researched extensively. Studies show it reduces the likelihood of cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, blood clots and metabolic syndrome. The evidence also indicates the diet improves insulin sensitivity, lowers oxidative stress, decreases inflammation and enhances endothelial cell function.
“Consumption of the toxic American diet, which is calorie-dense, nutrient-depleted and highly processed, leads to many medical problems. Conversely, the unprocessed foods that comprise the MedDiet provide the body with nutrients it needs to maximize health. It’s rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, fatty fish, nuts, seeds and extra virgin olive oil. The eating plan is also low in red meat and sugary beverages.
“Combining the MedDiet with exercise can do much to prevent disease. As I said recently at the Obesity Medicine Association Fall Conference, patients can often do more with a knife and fork and good pair of walking shoes to maintain optimal health than we can do with medications, stents and scalpels.”