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The current study, which comes out of a larger study called the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition—Physical Activity, Nutrition, Alcohol Consumption, Cessation of Smoking, Eating Out of Home, and Obesity project (EPIC—PANACEA), included data from more than 373,000 people in ten European countries. The people in the study filled out detailed dietary surveys and their eating habits were scored for how closely they matched a Mediterranean dietary pattern (MDP).
The MDP score was based on nine characteristics of a Mediterranean diet:
A score of 0–2 was assigned to each of the nine characteristics, so that the total MDP score ranged from 0–18, with a high score reflecting close adherence to the MDP. Once calculated, participants’ scores were compared with their weight changes over five years.
The results showed that eating a Mediterranean-style diet was associated with slightly less weight gain and a lower risk of becoming overweight or obese:
“This observational prospective study shows that eating a Mediterranean-like diet may help to prevent weight gain and the development of overweight and obesity,” the study’s authors said of their findings.
The researchers then looked at each component of the MDP separately to determine whether certain characteristics were especially important. “The low meat content of the Mediterranean diet seemed to account for most of its positive effect on weight gain,” they reported.
This study suggests that we can add obesity prevention to the growing list of health benefits linked to the Mediterranean diet. One previous analysis involving 1.5 million healthy adults found that following a Mediterranean diet reduced the risks of overall and cardiovascular mortality, cancer and cancer mortality, and Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.
If you’re making the switch to a Mediterranean diet, remember these important aspects:
(Am J Clin Nutr 2010;92:912–21)
Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice on Cortes Island in British Columbia, Canada, and has done extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.