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HomeFood and DrinkStudy Reveals Mediterranean Diet and Exercise Improves Gut Health, Leads to Weight...

Study Reveals Mediterranean Diet and Exercise Improves Gut Health, Leads to Weight Loss

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According to a new study, older people who follow a lower-calorie Mediterranean diet and minimally exercise up to six days a week tend to gain muscle and lose significant body fat by the end of a year. Also, they keep much of it off for about three years.

Leafy green
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This study focuses mainly on older people between 55 and 75. Dr. David Katz states, “This study demonstrates that a calorie-controlled Mediterranean diet plus exercise does not simply produce weight loss. It results in a redistribution of body composition from fat to muscle.”

What is the Mediterranean Diet?

Mediterranean Diets refer to diets based on the historical eating habits of people who live around the Mediterranean Sea. They are also a way of eating inspired by the traditional foods of Italy, Greece, and Spain.

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It’s all about enjoying many fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats like olive oil. Studies have found that the Mediterranean diet can reduce the risk of diabetes, high cholesterol, dementia, memory loss, depression, and breast cancer. The Mediterranean diet has been linked to stronger bones, a healthier heart, and a longer life.

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Features of the Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet features a high intake of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, and legumes. It includes intakes of low-fat or fat-free dairy products, fish, poultry, non-tropical vegetable oils, and nuts. Furthermore, it includes limited added sugars, sugary beverages, sodium, highly processed foods, refined carbohydrates, saturated fats, and fatty or processed meats. It specifically advises people to eat red meat occasionally and get their protein from fish or seafood at least twice a week. It also urges people to eat small quantities of poultry, eggs, and dairy most days. Mediterranean diets recommend that water be a person’s main drink and that people may drink one or two small glasses of red wine each day. 

Nutritional Cycle
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Giving credence to the Mediterranean diet, researchers suggest that a healthy diet should include a form of enjoyable physical activity every day. According to Dr. Scott Kaiser, a geriatrician, “Research supports the benefits of adopting healthy lifestyle habits.” Dr. Kaiser states that it also “indicates the critical importance this can play in shaping our future individual and collective health.” Start by including lots of fresh vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables. Then, enjoy fresh fruits, such as berries and other antioxidant-rich foods, fish, olive oil, and other foods rich in brain-healthy omega-3s.

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Experimenting With the Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

The research is part of an eight-year clinical trial in Spain. It includes 23 research centers testing how diet can reduce cardiovascular risk in older men and women. All of the 6,874 participants in the trial were overweight or obese. Also, they had high blood pressure, high blood sugar, altered cholesterol, and excess fat around the waist. A new study examined the three-year results in a subpopulation of 1,521 people who underwent scans to determine levels of visceral abdominal fat. The people were divided into two groups: intervention and control.

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The intervention group followed a Mediterranean diet with a 30% calorie reduction. They also limited the intake of added sugar, biscuits, refined bread and cereals, butter, cream, processed meats, and sweetened drinks. The intervention group received help from trained dietitians three times a month during the first year, and they were also trained to self-monitor and set goals. Over time, that same group increased their aerobic exercise to walking 45 or more minutes a day to improve strength, flexibility, and balance, all of which are critical to aging well. The remaining participants were given general advice group sessions twice a year and served as the study’s control group. 

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Result of the Experiment

After one year, people in the intervention group who followed the lower-calorie Mediterranean diet lost significant fat in the first year. Notably, this was significantly more than the control group. However, they regained some fat in two years as the researchers removed dietary advice and support.

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On the other hand, the smaller amount of body fat lost by the control group remained stable over the three years. Only participants from the intervention group reportedly decreased grams of visceral fat mass. However, the study states that the control group’s visceral fat mass remained unchanged. 

Benefits of Mediterranean Diets 

According to three-year research, the Mediterranean diet is very helpful in weight loss. Mediterranean diets also have benefits related to cardiovascular health. Studies showed that dietary patterns in the Mediterranean and Japan in the mid-20th century resulted in low rates of coronary heart disease and all-cause mortality. 

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Dr. Eamond Laird, a visiting research fellow at Trinity College, noted that “The Mediterranean diet is characterized by high fruit and vegetables, high fiber, and high levels of ‘good fats.’” Laird added that “it includes moderate intakes of fish and meat, low amounts of processed foods, and sugary treat foods.” “These food components give high amounts of fiber,” he explained. “Good fats, antioxidants, polyphenols, vitamins and minerals choline, vitamin C, potassium, B-vitamins, vitamin D from fish, etc.” He also noted that proteins give health benefits throughout many organ and tissue systems.

Other Benefits of Mediterranean Diets

Research also suggests that the diet may enhance cognitive function. A study published in March 2023 looked at post-mortem Alzheimer’s pathology and found that those who had followed a Mediterranean diet, one rich in leafy greens, had a much lower beta-amyloid load.

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Researchers say this diet reduces the risk of cancers and improves the efficacy of some cancer treatments. A 2019 review stated that adherence to the Mediterranean diet helps lower the rates of breast, colorectal, and prostate cancer. 

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