A MAJOR Spanish study has found that the typical fatty Mediterranean diet, rich in olive oil and nuts, does not cause people to pile on the pounds, and may in fact be an effective way to lose weight.
The research, published in the respected Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology journal, included 7,447 people, all of whom suffered from type 2 diabetes or were at high risk of heart disease, with 90 per cent overweight or obese.
Each participant was randomly instructed to follow an unrestricted Mediterranean diet featuring at least 50ml of extra virgin olive oil per day, a similar regime with 30g of nuts, or a standard low-fat diet, over a period of five years.
Surprisingly, the group demonstrating the greatest degree of weight loss were those following the olive oil-based diet, who lost an average of 0.88 kilos, compared with 0.60 kilos for the low-fat diet.
Waist circumference increased by an average of 1.2cm among the low-fat group, compared with 0.85cm in the olive oil group and 0.37cm in the nuts group.
The researchers believe that the results should lead to a total rethink over how we currently eat, with a Mediterranean diet laden with ‘healthy fats’ reducing the risk of heart disease, cancer, and other illnesses.
“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,” said lead author Dr Ramon Estruch from the Spanish Biomedical Research Centre in Physiopathology of Obesity and Nutrition at the University of Barcelona, Spain.
“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.”