Scientists from the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev found that a green Mediterranean (‘green Med’) diet, containing even more plant matter and very little red meat or poultry, maybe even better for cardiovascular and metabolic health.
The research is published in the journal Heart and was conducted by Gal Tsaban et al.
The Mediterranean diet, rich in plant-based foods, is linked to a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes and currently forms the backbone of dietary guidelines to stave off coronary heart disease.
It’s thought that its impact is related to higher dietary intake of polyphenols, ‘healthy’ fats and fiber, and lower animal protein intake.
In the study, the team wanted to find out whether a greener version of this diet, higher in green plant food sources and even lower in red meat intake, might be even better for health.
They assigned 294 sedentary and moderately obese people (BMI of 31) with an average age of 51 into three dietary groups.
The first group received guidance on boosting physical activity and basic guidelines for achieving a healthy diet.
The second received the same physical activity guidance plus advice on following a calorie-restricted (1500-1800 kcal/day for men and 1200-1400 kcal/ day for women) traditional Mediterranean diet.
This was low in simple carbohydrates, and rich in vegetables, with poultry and fish replacing red meat. It included 28 g/day of walnuts.
The third group received physical activity guidance plus advice on following a similar calorie-restricted green version of the Mediterranean diet (‘green Med’).
This included 28 g/day walnuts, avoidance of red/processed meat, and more plant food.
It also included 3-4 cups/day of green tea and 100 g frozen cubes of Wolffia globosa (cultivated Mankai strain), a high protein form of the aquatic plant duckweed, taken as a green plant-based protein shake as a partial substitute for animal protein.
After six months, the team found people on both types of Mediterranean diet lost more weight: green Med 6.2 kg; Mediterranean 5.4 kg; healthy diet 1.5 kg.
Waist circumference—an indicator of a potentially harmful midriff bulge—shrank by an average of 8.6 cm among those on the green Med diet compared with 6.8 cm for those on the Mediterranean diet and 4.3 cm for those on the healthy diet.
The green Med diet group also achieved larger falls in ‘bad’ low-density cholesterol of 6.1 mg/dl, a reduction of nearly 4%.
Similarly, those on the green Med diet had reductions in diastolic blood pressure, insulin resistance, and an important marker of inflammation that has a key role in artery hardening.
The ratio of ‘good’ to ‘bad’ cholesterol also increased.
The team says these changes resulted in a big decrease in the likelihood of serious heart disease over the next decade—among those on the green Med diet.
They say that eating a green Med dietary pattern in conjunction with physical activity has the potential to be a major contributor to public health as it may improve heart health.
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