According to one study, people who follow the “Mediterranean Green” diet burn a dangerous type of body fat four times faster than most dieters.
Those who consumed the plant-based diet for 18 months saw their visceral fat levels drop by 14%, compared to just 4.5% in a control group that followed a standard healthy diet.
Visceral fat wraps around vital organs and inside the abdomen, usually giving someone a beer or apple belly shape.
This type is the most dangerous because it is thought to release chemicals and hormones into the blood that trigger inflammation, linked to chronic conditions like heart disease and fatty liver disease. Its proximity to the organs increases the risk.
The Mediterranean diet – high in fat and protein but low in carbs – has become hugely popular in recent years with a slew of studies touting its benefits for longevity, reduced frailty and cancer prevention.
The above shows a healthy, Mediterranean, “green” Mediterranean diet that was consumed in the study. The Healthy Diet (left) followed basic dietary guidelines, while the Mediterranean Diet (center) followed standard recommendations for this type of diet containing lots of beans, legumes, whole grains, leafy greens, nuts and fish. The “green” Mediterranean diet was a variation of this which saw consumers replace certain meats with green tea and a duckweed shake.
The “green” Mediterranean diet still contains plenty of beans, legumes, whole grains, leafy greens, olive oils, nuts, and fish, but places more emphasis on green vegetables.
People in this group in the latest study were asked to give up red meat and poultry and consume three to four cups of green tea and a duckweed shake each day.
Researchers believe that polyphenols – plant compounds that protect body tissues against stress – help burn fat, which has been noted in previous studies.
Dr Hila Zelicha, an obesity expert at Ben-Gurion University in Israel, who participated in the study, said: “A 14% reduction in visceral fat is a dramatic achievement for making simple changes to your diet and your lifestyle.
Many experts consider visceral fat to be the true goal of weight loss and a better indicator of a person’s health than waist circumference.
Visceral fat accumulates over time between organs and produces hormones and poisons for heart disease, diabetes, dementia and premature death.
The graph above shows the percentage of visceral fat (shown as TVA) lost among participants based on the group they were assigned to
What was in the “green” Mediterranean diet?
A large-scale study has suggested that the “green” Mediterranean diet may lead to faster loss of visceral fat.
This is the most dangerous type of fat because it can wrap around organs and release chemicals that trigger inflammation.
Both diets suggest that women should consume no more than 1,200 to 1,400 calories per day, while men should stick to 1,600 to 1,800 calories.
They both ate around 40 grams of carbs per day for the first two months, then increased to 80 grams per day thereafter.
Both groups were also told to eat less red and processed meats and poultry than in the standard Mediterranean diet.
The “green” diet group was told to consume a 100 gram (g) duckweed shake and three to four cups of green tea once a day.
Both the standard Mediterranean diet group and the “green” diet group were to consume a handful of nuts per day.
There is no hard and fast formula for what is in the Mediterranean diet.
But Harvard University said the diet tended to include the following:
- An abundance of plant foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes
- Olive oil as the main source of fat;
- Cheese and yogurt, consumed daily in small to moderate amounts;
- Fish and poultry, eaten a few times a week in small to moderate amounts;
- Red meat, eaten rarely in small quantities;
- Fresh fruit for dessert, eaten only a few times a week with sweets added with sugar or honey;
- Wine, consumed in small or moderate quantities with certain meals.
The study – published today in the journal BMC Medicine – looked at 294 adults with an average age of 50 and a BMI of 31, putting them in the obese category. Nearly nine out of ten were men.
They were subjected to three different diets – and asked to follow them from May 2017 to November 2018.
Two groups were asked to follow a variation of the Mediterranean diet.
One followed a ‘green’ herbal version, which included three to four green teas and a duckweed (Mankai) shake daily.
The other stuck to a standard Mediterranean diet.
Both had calorie restrictions of 1,400 calories per day for women and 1,800 per day for men. They also ate less than 40 grams (g) of carbs per day for the first two months, then increased to 80g.
In the third group, participants were asked to eat healthy, but without strict calorie counting. They were advised to loosely follow the Mediterranean diet.
During the study, each group received 90-minute nutrition lessons every week for the first month, then once a month for the next five.
They then received the lessons every two months until the end of the study.
All were asked to do aerobics and strength training three to four times a week for 45 to 60 minutes. They also received free gym memberships to encourage their participation.
MRIs were performed at the start and end of the trial to measure visceral fat.
Measurements were also taken of the participants’ body weight and waist circumference.
These measures fell in both groups over the course of the study, although there were no significant differences between the reductions.
In the “green” group, participants lost an average of 3.9% of their body weight and 5.7% of their waist circumference.
Those following the standard Mediterranean diet lost 2.7% and 4.7% respectively.
And those who followed a healthy diet lost 0.4% and 3.6%.
It was the difference in visceral fat that was noticeable, according to Dr. Zelicha, who added: “Weight loss is only an important goal if it is accompanied by impressive results in the reduction of adipose tissue.”
Professor Iris Shai, nutritionist who led the research, said: ‘We have learned from the results of our experiment that the quality of food is not less important than the number of calories consumed.
“The goal is to understand the mechanisms of various nutrients.”
The researchers suggested that the greater visceral fat loss in the “green” diet group was due to their diet containing more polyphenols.
Levels of these herbal compounds were higher in these participants compared to the other groups.
These take more energy to digest than in other groups, which scientists say resulted in more energy being burned. This, in turn, led to a drop in weight.
The duckweed shake, consumed by people on the green diet, was rich in protein, iron B12, vitamins as well as polyphenols.
People who follow the ‘Mediterranean Green’ diet burn a dangerous type of body fat responsible for ‘beer bellies’ at a rapid rate (stock image)
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