When you think of the word ‘fat’, you probably think of weight gain, but the healthy fats found in the Mediterranean diet won’t tip the scale. Examples of healthy fats include olive oil, nuts, and avocados. The findings reaffirm the benefits of the Mediterranean diet and rank it supreme over low-fat diets.
Lead author Dr. Ramon Estruch said, “More than 40 years of nutritional policy has advocated for a low-fat diet, but we’re seeing little impact on rising levels of obesity. Our study shows that a Mediterranean diet rich in vegetable fats such as olive oil and nuts had little effect on body weight or waist circumference, compared to people on a low-fat diet. The Mediterranean diet has well-known health benefits and includes healthy fats, such as vegetable oils, fish, and nuts.”
“Our findings certainly do not imply that unrestricted diets with high levels of unhealthy fats such as butter, processed meat, sweetened beverages, [desserts], or fast foods are beneficial,” added Estruch.
The study included over 7,400 participants who followed one of the three meal plans: an unrestricted-calorie Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil, an unrestricted-calorie Mediterranean diet rich in nuts, or a low-fat diet meant to avoid all dietary fat.
All the participants had type 2 diabetes or were at risk for heart disease. Over 90 percent were overweight or obese.
After five years, fat intake fell from 40 percent to 37 percent in the low-fat group, and rose in both the Mediterranean groups from 40 percent to 42 percent. Protein and carbohydrate intake fell in the Mediterranean groups.
People in all three groups did manage to lose some weight. “The fat content of foods and diets is simply not a useful metric to judge long-term harms or benefits,” explained Dariush Mozaffarian, author of an accompanying editorial.
“Energy density and total caloric contents can be similarly misleading. Rather, modern scientific evidence supports an emphasis on eating more calories from fruits, nuts, vegetables, beans, fish, yogurt, phenolic-rich vegetable oils, and minimally processed whole grains; and fewer calories from highly processed foods rich in starch, sugar, salt, or trans fat. Dietary guidelines should be revised to lay to rest the outdated, arbitrary limits on total fat consumption. Calorie-obsessed caveats and warnings about healthier, higher-fat choices such as nuts, phenolic-rich vegetable oils, yogurt, and even perhaps cheese, should also be dropped,” Mozaffarian wrote.
The report was published on June 6 in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.
Also, read Bel Marra Health’s article on Mediterranean diet gets top health score. Here’s why…