A No-Calorie Restricted Mediterranean Diet Could Be Better Than A Low-Fat Plan

  • Further research highlights a no calorie limit on the Mediterranean diet as a better strategy for avoiding weight gain than cutting out fatty foods altogether.

The low-fat diet continues to throw up controversy at the moment. A recent report indicates that a Mediterranean style diet which has a no calorie limit is no more likely to cause weight gain than one where all fatty foods are avoided if followed for five years.

It adds to a sense of confusion about the appropriate dietary advice on ‘good’ and ‘bad’ fat. A month ago, a group of experts from the National Obesity Forum (NOF) published a report stating that saturated fat was not the cause of heart disease and that full-fat dairy foods for example could even protect the heart.  Milk, pizza cheese and yoghurt are all effectively back on the menu.

A study in Spain looked at the health of 7,447 Spanish people between 2003 and 2010 in a number of health centres who all had Type 2 diabetes and were considered at high risk of heart disease and were 90% overweight or clinically obese. The subjects were randomly assigned to one of three diets – one that avoided all types of fat, a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil and one that was rich in nuts such as walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts. The data was collected from the Spanish PREvención con DIeta MEDiterránea (PREDIMED) randomized controlled trial.

Over five years of study, all three groups had a shed a modest amount of weight but those on the olive oil-rich diet lost the most weight of about 1.9 lbs or 0.88 kg. The low-fat diet group lost 0.60 kg and those on the nut-rich diet lost 0.4 kg. The percentage energy intake available from protein and carbohydrate decreased in both the Mediterranean diet groups.

One of the other interesting findings was the effect on waist circumference where avoiding fat had the least effect on the ‘spare tyre’. Here the waist line increased by 1.2cm in the low-fat diet group whilst it grew 0.85cm in the olive oil group and 0.37cm in the nut rich group.

Ramon Estruch, MD, PhD, the lead author from CIBER OBN-University, Barcelona, Spain, along with his colleagues stated:-

These results have practical implications, because the fear of weight gain from high­ fat foods need no longer be an obstacle to adherence to a dietary pattern such as the Mediterranean diet, which is known to provide much clinical and metabolic benefit,”

They are also relevant for public health, because they lend support to not restricting intake of healthy fats in advice for bodyweight maintenance and overall cardio-metabolic health, as acknowledged by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015 Advisory Committee.”


The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology. http://www.thelancet.com/journals/landia/article/PIIS2213-8587(16)30085-7/abstract

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