Following the “green” Mediterranean diet helps burn fat three times faster than typical healthy eating, a new study shows.
Research published in the BMC Medicine journal found that eating a plant-based Mediterranean diet allowed the body to burn a dangerous type of body fat at triple the rate compared to those on a generally “healthy” diet.
Those who consumed the diet for 18 months saw their visceral fat levels reduced by 14%, compared to a control group who ate a standard healthy diet and only saw their fat levels reduced by just 4.5%. And a conventional Med diet performed half as well as its meat-free counterpart.
Visceral fat is the kind that wraps around vital organs in the abdomen, and is more likely than other fats to raise your risk for serious medical issues, including heart disease, Alzheimer’s and type 2 diabetes. This type of fat is what typically gives someone a beer belly, but is found in thin people as well.
Research suggests that losing visceral fat should be the objective in weight loss, and more indicative of health than a personal’s overall weight or the circumference of their waist.
A Mediterranean diet — which is high in fats and proteins but low in carbohydrates — is touted as an overall healthy diet and become increasingly popular for its heart health benefits.
Plant-based foods, such as whole grains, vegetables and legumes are the foundation of the diet with olive oil being the main source of added fat, but the green Mediterranean diet puts an extra emphasis on the greens.
The 18-month study, conducted by researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, enlisted 294 participants who averaged to be 51 years old and considered clinically obese. Researchers separated the participants into three groups at random, guiding them through a “healthy” diet, a Mediterranean diet or a green Mediterranean diet.
People on the green Mediterranean diet were instructed to forgo red meat and poultry and drink daily three to four cups of green tea, and a duckweed (Wolffia globosa) shake — which is high in protein, iron, B12, vitamins, minerals and polyphenols — to substitute meat intake.
Both groups following the Mediterranean diets had calorie restrictions of 1,400 calories a day for women, and 1,800 a day for men, and ate fewer than 40 grams of carbohydrates a day for the first two months, before being raised to 80 grams.
Those on a general “healthy” diet were not given strict calorie counts.
All participants were given 90-minute nutrition lessons every week for the first month and then once a month for the following five and asked to do aerobic and resistance training three to four times a week for 45 to 60 minutes.
In the end, the study found that while the Mediterranean and green Mediterranean diets lead to participants seeing similar weight loss and waist circumferences, the green Mediterranean diet doubled the visceral fat loss. And the visceral fat loss was tripled compared to the “healthy” diet.
It also concluded that higher dietary consumption of green tea, walnuts and duckweed, paired with with lowered red meat intake, were significantly related to greater visceral fat loss.