Vegetarian and Mediterranean diets equally as effective in weight loss, study

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The study was published February 26 in the journal Circulation.

While Mediterranean diet has been known to be one of the most healthful diets, vegetarian diets are definitely not behind.

While the study was a controlled experiment and offers solid evidence that both a vegetarian and Mediterranean diet can help lower certain risk factors for heart disease, the experiment wasn't created to show why one diet might be better for cholesterol or triglycerides, noted Cheryl Anderson, author of an accompanying editorial and a researcher at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine.

Commenting on the vegetarian diet's lesser effect on triglyceride levels, the study's lead author, Francesco Sofi, MD, PhD, of Careggi University Hospital and the University of Florence in Italy, postulated this as due to "the high content of carbohydrate and total fat that occurs when meat and meat products are eliminated from the diet". One hundred eighteen individuals were enrolled; 84.7 percent completed the study.

Participants lost similar amounts of body fat and weight - about 4 pounds - with each diet, researchers report in Circulation. For body mass index and fat mass, the results were similar.

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Authors said they found two differences between the diets that were significant. The target values for one or more cardiovascular risk factor were achieved by 46 and 35 participants during the VD and MedD periods, respectively. The vegetarian diet was found to be more effective at dropping LDL ("bad") cholesterol that contributes to plaque build-up in the arteries, increasing risk factors for heart attack and stroke. "This helps you to reduce some cardiovascular risk factors as well as a Mediterranean diet".

They were assigned to follow either a low-calorie vegetarian or Mediterranean diet for three months.

The Mediterranean diet included poultry, fish and some red meat as well as fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains. Mediterranean diet is heavy on produce, nuts, whole grains, lean protein and olive oil and light on red meat, refined sugars and processed foods. During and after both phases of the study, everyone had regular health screenings.

For the study, a team of researchers recruited about 100 overweight but healthy adults with low-to-moderate cardiovascular risk profiles.

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