In a new study, researchers found there were some weight loss and health benefits for overweight adults who followed the Mediterranean, Intermittent Fasting, and Paleo diets.
Intermittent fasting — whereby participants limit their energy intake to about 25% of their usual diet (500kcal for women and 600kcal for men) on two self-selected days per week, led to slightly more weight loss than the other diets.
The Mediterranean diet also improved blood sugar levels.
The amount of weight loss was modest — on average two to four kilograms for the 250 participants, but for those choosing the fasting or Mediterranean diets, clinically significant improvements in blood pressure were also seen.
The evidence shows that for some people the Mediterranean, fasting or paleo (Paleolithic) diets can be healthful, beneficial ways to eat.
The research was conducted by a team at the University of Otago.
The aim of the research was to examine how effective all three diets were in a “real world” setting, where participants self-selected which diet they wished to follow, without any ongoing support from a dietitian.
In this study, people were given dietary guidelines at the start and then continued with their diets in the real world while living normally.
The Mediterranean diet encouraged consumption of fruit, vegetables, whole-grain breads and cereals, legumes, nuts, seeds, and olive oil with moderate amounts of fish, chicken, eggs, and dairy and red meat once a week or less.
The paleo diet consists of mostly less-processed foods with an emphasis on eating fruit and vegetables, animal proteins, nuts, coconut products, and extra-virgin olive oil.
While “original” Paleo diets strictly exclude all legumes, dairy, and grains, this study used a modified version including some dairy as well as up to one serving daily of legumes and grain-based food.
Most of the 250 participants (54%) chose the fasting diet, while 27% chose the Mediterranean and 18% the paleo.
After 12 months, the Mediterranean diet had the best retention rate with 57% of participants continuing, with 54% still fasting and 35% still on the paleo diet.
After 12 months, the average weight loss was 4.0kg for those choosing the fasting diet, 2.8kg on the Mediterranean diet and 1.8kg on the paleo diet.
Reduced systolic blood pressure was observed among those participating in the fasting and Mediterranean diets, together with reduced blood sugar levels in the Mediterranean diet.
The results also showed people found the Mediterranean diet to be the easiest to adhere to.
The team says like the Mediterranean diet, intermittent fasting and paleo diets can also be valid healthy eating approaches — the best diet is the one that includes healthy foods and suits the individual.
One author of the study is Dr Melyssa Roy, a Research Fellow in the Department of Medicine.
The study is published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
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