How to lose fat faster with the Mediterranean diet

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Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital and the Harvard School of Public Health have found that people following a Mediterranean-style, moderate fat weight loss diet were able to keep weight off for a longer period of time than people following the traditionally recommended low fat diet. The findings appear in the International Journal of Obesity.


In our study, three times as many people trying to lose weight were able to stick to a Mediterranean-style diet versus the low fat diet,″ said study lead-author Kathy McManus, MS, RD. Motivation and adherence are very hard to sustain in any weight loss programs, but the results from this study suggest that the tastier the food, the greater overall success of the diet plan – even if it does include moderate amounts of fat.″

A moderate fat diet based on the diets of southern Europe and the Mediterranean allows for a greater variety of foods that are considered very appetising compared with a strict, bland, low-fat diet. The main dietary fats in a typical Mediterranean diet are unsaturated. Unsaturated fat, or "healthy fat", has been associated with lowering cholesterol.

In the study of 101 overweight men and women, half were instructed to eat a low fat diet (20% calories from fat) and half to eat a moderate fat diet (35% calories from fat, mostly unsaturated from peanut butter, nuts, olive and canola oils). All participants were given guidelines to eat a diet of approximately 1,200-1,500 calories that was low in saturated fat and cholesterol.

Only one in five study participants could stick to the low fat diet while more than half stuck to the moderate fat diet.
Both groups lost an average of 11 pounds in the first year. However the moderate fat group kept a significant amount of weight off for 18 months, whereas the low fat group did not. The moderate fat group was followed for an additional year (2 1/2 years total) and still kept a significant amount of weight off.

My patients loved this diet because they could include favorite foods if they carefully watched portion sizes,″ added McManus. Study subjects substituted high saturated fat foods, like butter, with healthy monounsaturated fat foods, like peanut butter. They tossed nuts on their salad instead of croutons and used small amounts of full fat salad dressings.

Those in the moderate fat group increased peanut butter consumption by almost a serving (2 tablespoons) per day, increased peanut consumption by a half a serving (1/2 ounce or a small handful) and tree nuts (almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pistachios and walnuts) by a half a serving over their baseline diets. Other foods such as healthy oils (olive, peanut and canola) and avocados were added in small amounts.

Surprisingly, those on the moderate fat diet increased consumption of vegetables by one serving per day. Intake of fiber was also increased significantly, and the moderate fat group tended to eat more protein compared to their baseline diets. In contrast, the low fat group decreased their consumption of vegetables and fiber compared to baseline.

Defining and understanding the Mediterranean diet is not easy because there are several countries that border the Mediterranean Basin.
Still, the traditional diets from the people living in the 1960’s in countries like Greece, and Southern Italy have been studied extensively over the past several years. This is due to the notably low incidence of chronic diseases and high life-expectancy rates attributed to these populations who ate traditional Mediterranean diet foods. Many differences in culture, ethnic background, religion, economy and agricultural production result in different diets. But the common Mediterranean dietary pattern has these characteristics:

high in fruits, vegetables, bread and other cereals, potatoes, beans, nuts and seeds

includes olive oil as an important, monounsaturated fat source

dairy products, fish and poultry consumed in low to moderate amounts, little red meat

eggs consumed zero to four times weekly

wine consumed in low to moderate amounts

The traditional Mediterranean diet delivers as much as 40% of total daily calories from fat, yet the incidence of cardiovascular diseases is significantly decreased. One healthy form of fat you might want to try is conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Studies show that CLA make weight loss faster and easier. There’s more information on CLA, including details on which supplements work best, elsewhere on this site.

McManus, K., Antinoro, .L, & Sacks, F. (2001). A randomized controlled trial of a moderate-fat, low-energy diet compared with a low fat, low-energy diet for weight loss in overweight adults. International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders, 25, 1503-1511

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3.26 Copyright (C) 2008 / Copyright (C) 2007 Alain Georgette / Copyright (C) 2006 Frantisek Hliva. All rights reserved."