A new study led by the University of Navarra in collaboration with Harvard University researchers has found that the Mediterranean dietary pattern slows down the age-related weight gain, especially among those subjects with a tendency to increase weight.
This study was born during a post-doctoral stay of Dr. Juan José Beunza at the Harvard School of Public Health with a La Caixa fellowship, and has just been published in one of the highest impact medical journals on Nutrition: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Specifically, the study directed by Dr. Juan-José Beunza and framed within the PREDIMED network, observed 10,376 participants in the SUN (Seguimiento Universidad de Navarra; University of Navarra follow-up) project. They were followed-up for an average of almost 6 years, and the weight change of those participants who followed a Mediterranean dietary pattern was compared to the weight change of those who did not follow it.
“We found that among male participants, those who followed this dietary pattern increased their weight in an average of 128 g per year, compared to 287 g per year among those who did not”, explains Dr. Beunza. This effect was less important among women: “on the other hand, women who adhered to this pattern gained an average of 242 g per year, compared to 300 g per year among those who did not”.
In addition: “we found that the effect was especially strong among those participants with a prior tendency to weight gain. Those volunteers who had increased their weight in at least 3 kg in the 5 years previous to the study, gained an average of 48 g per year, compared to 261 g per year among those who didn’t have that tendency to increase weight, men and women together”.
Dr. Beunza notes that despite the apparently small values of these weight changes, “when projected in the long term, for instance 20 years ahead, these changes are clinically relevant for the development of obesity and its complications”.
It is sometimes believed that age-related weight gain is a normal physiological process. According to the principal researcher: “following a Mediterranean dietary pattern slows down the often observed age-related weight gain; this weight gain should not be considered normal.”
In addition, this dietary pattern may be a useful tool to slow down the obesity epidemic, especially worrisome in high income countries “where obesity is an important cause of disease and mortality, and where the trend seems to be resistant to most of our Public Health efforts”, explains Dr. Beunza.
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