I posted recently about how the Standard American Diet really is pretty SAD. And how our fear of fat has lead us down a path of tasteless, crappy food touted as “lite”, “diet”, and “healthy” but are really just processed gut bombs loaded with refined sugars, highly processed oils, genetically modified foods, and synthetic ingredients created in a lab, not on a farm.
A better way through a Mediterranean approach to eating?
The Mediterranean diet has been in the news quite a bit recently and has been associated with weight loss, lowering cardiovascular disease risk, and promoting healthful aging and longevity. A family member was recently advised by her physician to start a Mediterranean diet to help lower her cholesterol levels without medication, so I thought I’d look a bit more into it. I was happy to find that research does appear to back up the positive health benefit claims associated with adhering to a Mediterranean diet and that doctors are finally recognizing the importance of food as medicine and are promoting lifestyle and dietary changes before turning to drugs to treat some preventable and modifiable health conditions.
Successful weight loss and improved health can be possible with a Mediterranean-style diet
The Mediterranean diet is high in fresh, unprocessed foods like vegetables, nuts, olives, and fruit and minimally processed whole grains, moderate amounts of fish and poultry, moderate amounts of wine consumed with meals, and low amounts of processed meats, sweets, and dairy. In a two year study on weight loss, a Mediterranean diet was found to be sustainable, with an adherence rate of 85%, with significant weight loss that was comparable to low-carbohydrate diets (a 4.4 kg loss for Mediterranean dieters compared to a 4.9 kg loss for low-carbohydrate dieters) and much higher than the 2.9 kg loss seen with low-fat diets.
And can be sustainable for the long term…
In even greater favor of the sustainability and positive weight loss benefits of the Mediterranean diet was that after 6 years adherence to the diet was still high, at 67%, and that Mediterranean dieters only gained back 1.4 kg compared to 2.4 kg for low fat dieters and 4.1 kg for low carbohydrate dieters.
In addition to weight loss, Mediterranean dieters achieve lower triglyceride levels, lower overall cholesterol levels, and have 30% fewer incidences of major cardiovascular events. In addition to the cardiometabolic benefits, Mediterranean diets are also associated with improved health status and longevity among elderly individuals as evidenced by longer leukocyte telomere lengths, more telomerase activity, and less telomere shortening during the aging process.
If a Mediterranean style of eating appeals to you, dig in!
Overall it seems the Mediterranean diet is a healthful, sustainable diet that can be readily adhered to by most people (because it also happens to be tasty!). With its emphasis on whole, unprocessed, non-GMO foods and minimization of sugars and processed foods, it is a diet I would feel comfortable recommending to people who want to lose weight, improve their cardiometabolic health, or age gracefully.
Boccardi, V., Esposito, A., Rizzo, M.R., Marfella, R., Barbieri, M., & Paolisso, G. (2013). Mediterranean diet, telomere maintenance and health status among elderly. PLoS One, 8(4), e62781. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0062781
Estruch, R., Ros, E., Salas-Salvadó, J., Covas, M.I., Corella, D., Arós, F.,… Martínez-González, M.A. (2013). Primary prevention of cardiovascular disease with a Mediterranean diet. New England Journal of Medicine, 368(14), 1279-1290. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1200303
Schwarzfuchs, D., Golan, R., & Shai, I. (2012). Four-year follow-up after two-year dietary interventions. New England Journal of Medicine, 367(14), 1373-1374. doi: 10.1056/NEJMc1204792