The health benefits of a Mediterranean diet

Scientists at the Wake Forest School of Medicine in the United States propose that a Mediterranean diet deters overeating, as well as protecting against obesity and prediabetes when compared to a Western diet.

The 38-month (roughly nine years for humans) study was conducted amongst non-human primates where one group was fed a Mediterranean diet and the other a Western diet. Diets were made to replicate those that humans eat—the Western diet containing protein and fat taken mainly from animal sources, while the Mediterranean diet was comprised primarily of plant product. The group that was eating the Mediterranean diet were found not to want to finish their entire portions and maintained a healthy weight. In comparison, the Western diet encouraged the animals to eat more than they needed, leading to weight gain. Carol Shively, professor of pathology at Wake Forest School of Medicine, said, “What we found was that the group of the Mediterranean diet actually ate fewer calories, had lower body weight and had less body fat than those on the Western diet.”

In addition to this, the Mediterranean diet was found to help fight against non-alcoholic fatty liver disease or NAFLD. Obesity is a leading cause of NAFLD, and by 2030, it is predicted that one-third of adults in the U.S. are expected to have the disease. “Diet composition is a critically important contributor to the U.S. public health, and unfortunately those at the greatest risk for obesity and related costly chronic diseases also have the poorest quality diets.”

“The Western diet was developed and promoted by companies who want us to eat their food, so they make it hyper-palatable, meaning it hits all our buttons, so we overconsume. Eating a Mediterranean diet should allow people to enjoy their food and not overeat.”