Response: Mediterranean Diet not for weight loss

I read a blog post yesterday about the Mediterranean Diet. The post (specific author unknown to me and brought to me by my Facebook newsfeed) proposes that the Mediterranean Diet is not conducive to weight loss and declares that it is only good for improving heart health. This is an incredibly superficial understanding of nutrition and naive perspective. I would even go so far as to say that posting such information is professional negligence or malpractice.

I strongly believe that you should get your nutrition advice from a qualified nutrition professional. I AM NOT ONE. I feel like I have been writing more about nutrition than exercise or mental strategies lately – I only intend to make you think critically and then get the answers you need. And when I read posts like this and hear a story of a nutritionist telling a friend that a vegetable is not a carbohydrate (yes, true story), I become infuriated. It makes me angry and it makes me sad. As if individuals are not confused enough! This world is infiltrated with hogwash and I intend to do my small part to call attention to it.

Mediterranean Diet = weight loss?

Yes, a Mediterranean Diet will yield weight loss. The poorly misguided post ‘cites’ research (that focused on heart risks, bias much?) that claimed a Mediterranean diet improved heart health but did not result in weight loss. I put cites in quotes because the author claims that the New England Journal of Medicine conducted the research – really? A journal did research? More like researchers were published in the journal. But hey, it’s close and shows that the author does not understand how to accurately read and present research.

Moving on. Yes, the Mediterranean Diet is best known for its coronary benefits. Along with dietary guidelines, the diet emphasizes plenty of exercise. So, while weight loss may not have been significant in the study, fat loss probably was significant and not measured. Numerous studies have shown that a Mediterranean diet shows improved weight loss over other weight loss strategies (Mohamed, El-Swefy, Rashed, & Abd El-Latif, 2010; Razquin, Martínez, Martínez-González, Salas-Salvadó, Estruch, & Marti, 2010; Serra-Majem, Roman, & Estruch, 2006).

NOTE: Without proper citation by the author, I was unable to locate the so-called research among the thousands of articles published in the NEJM. Therefore, my argument is anecdotal but based on years of personal research and education.

Benefits of a Mediterranean Diet

Beyond heart benefits, the Mediterranean diet has been shown to increase fat loss (Serra-Majem, Roman, & Estruch, 2006). It is also known to prevent and ‘cure’ diabetes (Serra-Majem, Roman, & Estruch, 2006; Walker, O’Dea, Gomez, Girgis, & Colagiuri, 2010), decrease mental decline, reduce insulin resistance, and reduce metabolic disorders (which have a high comorbidity with overweight/obesity).

And I refer you to a nutrition professional for additional information.

Basic nutrition

This brings me back to the fact that very few weight loss “professionals” have an understanding of the basic nutrition principles and processes. It is appalling to me that any weight loss company would publish such hogwash. Seriously. A Mediterranean Diet not a weight loss diet? HOGWASH! I will over simplify this: A diet of fruits, veggies, lean meats, and healthy fats won’t yield weight loss? But a diet of Fig Newtons and graham crackers with pudding is a better solution (per the post’s publisher)?

I think it’s time to come back to the basics. I read textbooks for my information – but I realize this is too dense and time consuming for most individuals. I am beginning to put together a resource list of videos and websites to help my friends and readers increase personal understanding of nutrition!

The bottomline

I am not promoting a Mediterranean Diet. Nor am I discouraging it. I believe that the guidelines are reasonable and will work for some and will be difficult for others – as like any other change. It is not significantly different from a a low-carbohydrate diet, a low-glycemic index diet, or a Paleo diet. The most critical commonality? Eating more REAL food and less processed and packaged junk.

Further, this absurdity highlights the importance of weight loss versus fat loss. Body composition will often improve with no change in weight – with proper lifestyle improvements.

Lastly, please be a critical consumer. It is sad that I read this post on a page that I believed I could trust (at least to a certain degree). I now know otherwise.

References

Mediterranean-Style Diet Counters Metabolic Syndrome. (2011). Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter29(6), 6.

Mohamed, H. E., El-Swefy, S. E., Rashed, L. A., & Abd El-Latif, S. K. (2010). Obesity and neurodegeneration: effect of a Mediterranean dietary pattern. Nutritional Neuroscience13(5), 205-212.

Razquin, C. C., Martínez, J. A., Martínez-González, M. A., Salas-Salvadó, J. J., Estruch, R. R., & Marti, A. A. (2010). A 3-year Mediterranean-style dietary intervention may modulate the association between adiponectin gene variants and body weight change. European Journal Of Nutrition49(5), 311-319.

Serra-Majem, L., Roman, B., & Estruch, R. (2006). Scientific Evidence of Interventions Using the Mediterranean Diet: A Systematic Review. Nutrition Reviews64(2), S27-S47.

Walker, K. Z., O’Dea, K. K., Gomez, M. M., Girgis, S. S., & Colagiuri, R. R. (2010). Diet and exercise in the prevention of diabetes. Journal Of Human Nutrition & Dietetics23(4), 344-352.

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