Study on Mediterranean Food Shows Better Weight Loss Results
BY: Nisreen Eadeh/Staff Writer
A Spanish research paper entitled PREDIMED recently released results from a five-year study that is surprising people all over the world. The study examined the effect of a Mediterranean diet on the bodyweight and waist circumference of 7,447 Spaniards ages 55-80, of which over 90% were overweight or obese. The results found that a Mediterranean diet high in healthy fats, such as olive oil, vegetables, fish, whole grains, rice, beans, plain yogurt, and nuts contribute to greater weight loss. These findings contradict years of mass marketing efforts telling consumers to reduce all fat intake in order to lose weight.
The study’s participants were separated into three different diet groups: Mediterranean diet supplemented with 50 ml of olive oil per day; Mediterranean diet supplemented with 30 g of nuts per day; and a standard low-fat diet. Exercise was not promoted and there were no other food restrictions.
After five years, the weight loss was not substantial, but found that the higher fat content of Mediterranean food can be beneficial. The greatest amount of weight loss was in the Mediterranean with olive oil group (-1.94 lbs), compared to the standard low-fat diet (-1.3 lbs).
All the groups increased their waist measurements, which some researchers are attributing partially to old age. However, those on the Mediterranean diet with nuts had the least amount of waist circumference growth (+0.34 in), compared to those on the standard low-fat diet (+0.47 in).
For forty years, mass food production companies have been making low-fat food under the belief that all fats are high in calories and cause weight gain. The fear that foods with fat will cause obesity has been marketed to people all over the world, but is not completely true. Mediterranean foods are high in healthy fat contents that are low in calories, and help reduce heart disease and cancer.
The researchers want the public to be aware that a long-term Mediterranean diet can lend support to weight loss and decrease the rate of waist circumference growth. Furthermore, people should be aware that public advice on fat intake reduction should not include healthy fats.
The lead researcher, Dr. Ramon Estruch said: “Our study shows that a Mediterranean diet rich in vegetable fats such as olive oil and nuts had little effect on bodyweight or waist circumference compared with 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.”
This study is good news for Arab Americans who have kept the Mediterranean diet in their every day lives. Olive oil is a common ingredient in innumerable Arab dishes, while other Mediterranean foods can be found regularly in popular dishes, such as: mujuddarah, fattoush, labneh with za’atar and olive oil, hummus with vegetables and whole grain pita, and grilled fish.
The study is a lesson in listening to the traditional ways of Arab ancestors, as opposed to mass produced food companies, who may not have Americans’ best interest in mind.