Forget olive oil, fragrant herbs and stuffed vegetables, the Medi-terranean diet, which has conquered the world with its flavours and health benefits, could now be dethroned by the vegan diet, new research suggests.
While the two diets aren’t that far removed from one another, the vegan regime could be a better option for weight loss, controlling cholesterol and insulin sensitivity, according to a new study from the US-based nonprofit research and advocacy organisation Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.
To come to these conclusions, the scientists selected participants who were overweight and had no history of diabetes, and randomly assigned them a vegan or a Mediterranean diet.
Half of the volunteers started with a low-fat vegan diet that excluded animal products and focused on fruit, vegetables, whole grains and legumes.
The second group started with a Mediterranean diet focusing on fruit, vegetables, legumes, fish, low-fat dairy and extra virgin olive oil, while limiting or avoiding red meat and saturated fats.
Participants’ calorie intakes were not limited and they did not change their exercise or medication regimes, unless otherwise directed by their personal doctors.
Participants followed each diet for a period of 16 weeks, then went back to their regular diets for a four-week “reset” before switching to the other diet for an additional 16 weeks.
Published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, the results appear conclusively in favour of the vegan diet.
The researchers found that within 16 weeks on each diet, participants lost an average of 6kg on the vegan diet, compared to no significant change for those on the Mediterranean diet.
Participants also lost 3.4kg more fat mass on the vegan diet and saw a greater reduction in visceral fat.
The vegan diet also reduced cholesterol levels, while no significant cholesterol changes were observed on the Mediterranean diet.
However, while blood pressure decreased on both diets, it actually decreased more on the Mediterranean diet.
“Previous studies have suggested that both Mediterranean and vegan diets improve body weight and cardiometabolic risk factors, but until now, their relative efficacy had not been compared in a randomised trial,” says study author and the Physicians Committee clinical research director Dr Hana Kahleova.
“We decided to test the diets head to head and found that a vegan diet is more effective for both improving health markers and boosting weight loss.”
In light of the results, the researchers point out that the vegan diet is often associated with reduced calorie intake, increased fibre intake, and decreased fat and saturated fat consumption, which may go some way to explaining the conclusions.
“While many people think of the Mediterranean diet as one of the best ways to lose weight, the diet actually crashed and burned when we put it to the test,” says study author and Physicians Committee president Dr Neal Barnard.
“In a randomised controlled trial, the Mediterranean diet caused no weight loss at all.
“The problem seems to be the inclusion of fatty fish, dairy pro-ducts and oils.
“In contrast, a low-fat vegan diet caused significant and consistent weight loss.” – AFP Relaxnews
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