Heart disease and stroke risk have been found to reduce when on a Mediterranean diet, but a new study shows that a Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian diet may be equally as helpful.
As the names suggest, a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet is a vegetarian diet that includes milk and eggs, whereas the Mediterranean diet includes foods that are predominantly eaten in the Mediterranean region. A Mediterranean diet includes non-vegetarian foods such as fish, poultry, and some amount of red meat in addition to fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains.
Previous studies have found that both vegetarian diets and the Mediterranean diet decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease. A new study compared the effects of the lacto-ovo vegetarian diet (an omnivorous diet) and the Mediterranean diet.
Researchers studied 107 overweight participants between the ages 18 and 75. They randomly divided them into two groups and assigned each group one type of diet to follow for a period of three months, after which they had to switch diets. Those who followed the lacto-ovo vegetarian diet for the first three months had to follow the Mediterranean diet for the following three months.
Scientists measured the weight, BMI (body mass index), and mass of fat of all the participants both before they started their diets, after three months, and after six months to assess whether there was any significant change after dieting. In addition, they tracked parameters related to the risk of heart disease and stroke. These included lipid profile and cholesterol tests.
Both of the diets were found to be equally as effective in reducing fat and BMI. Participants in both groups lost approximately three pounds of fat, four pounds of overall body weight, and experienced a proportional change in BMI.
Comparing the lipid profiles of the participants, doctors found that the lacto-ovo vegetarian diet was more effective at reducing risk factors such as LDL cholesterol compared to the Mediterranean diet. However, the Mediterranean diet was more effective in reducing the level of triglycerides which, if high, can lead to a heart attack or a stroke.
According to Francesco Sofi, professor at the University of Florence, the key finding is that both diets are heart-healthy diets and can help patients reduce the risk of heart disease.
Explaining this further, Cheryl A. M. Anderson, professor at University of California added that a heart-healthy diet has a variety of foods that are rich in nutrients and limit the number of calories from saturated fats. Both the diets studied follow this pattern. They recommend fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and nuts, which not only provide a variety of nutrients but contain minimal saturated fats. These diets could possibly be recommended to “prevent and manage obesity and cardiovascular diseases.”