Mediterranean Diet Cuts Age Weight Gain

People who follow a diet typical of the Mediterranean region might dodge the added pounds that often come with aging, hints a new Spanish study.

However, the researchers can’t be sure if it was the diet itself or related healthy behaviors that were responsible for staving off the weight.

The Mediterranean diet is generally rich in fish, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and cereals, while low in red meats and dairy.

Previous research has uncovered benefits for its followers, including protection from cardiovascular disease and diabetes, as well as weight loss among those who are already overweight or obese.

Yet doubts continue to linger over the potential caloric costs of the diet’s high fat content, largely in the form of olive oil, noted lead researcher Juan-Jose Beunza of the University of Navarra.

“The question we wanted to answer was: What is the effect of the Mediterranean dietary pattern among young, nonobese, healthy people? And we found it is a convenient dietary pattern since it slows down the weight gain normally observed with age,” Beunza told Reuters Health in an e-mail.

Beunza and his colleagues recruited more than 10,000 Spanish university graduates, averaging 38 years old, and had them fill out a 136-item food frequency questionnaire. Then the researchers followed the men and women for about six years.

During the course of the study, the average participant gained half a pound each year.

The team found that participants who reported the lowest adherence to the Mediterranean eating pattern gained the most weight, while those most adherent were least likely to add pounds with age.

In fact, the strict Mediterranean eaters were 10 percent less likely to become overweight or obese by the end of the study, and had 24 percent lower odds of packing on more than 11 pounds over the study’s first four years.

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