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Which diet is healthiest?
Diets are like sand by the sea. The healthiest diets include the Mediterranean and Paleo diets, as well as intermittent fasting. These three diets have now been compared in a study. What are the benefits of following one of these diets for a year?
Researchers from the University of Otago in New Zealand compared three groups, each of whom followed a particular diet for a year. The Mediterranean diet, the paleo diet and the intermittent fasting on a total of 250 participants were compared. The results were recently presented in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition".
Diet test under real conditions
The aim of the study was to examine how effective the three diets are in the “real world”. Participants chose which diet to follow and received no additional support from a nutritionist. Most of the 250 participants (54 percent) chose the fasting diet, while 27 percent chose the Mediterranean diet and 18 percent the paleo diet.
What is a Mediterranean diet?
The Mediterranean diet promoted the consumption of fruit, vegetables, whole grain bread and cereals, legumes, nuts, seeds and olive oil, as well as moderate amounts of fish, chicken and eggs. Red meat should not be consumed more than once a week.
What makes a paleo diet?
The paleo diet mostly consists of less processed foods with a focus on the consumption of fruits and vegetables, animal proteins, nuts, coconut products and extra virgin olive oil. While the "original" paleo diet strictly excludes all legumes, dairy products and cereals, a modified version was used in this study, which allows some dairy products and up to one serving of legumes and cereal-based foods daily.
How was intermittent fasting done?
For this purpose, the participants should limit their energy intake to around 25 percent of their usual diet on two days of their choice. Women were only allowed to eat an average of 500 kcal and men 600 kcal.
All diets led to weight loss
It was shown that all overweight participants in all groups lost weight. All diets also brought health benefits. However, the results differed slightly. So every diet seems to have its special strength.
What are the health benefits?
The majority of participants who performed intermittent fasting lost weight. The Mediterranean diet, however, was the most effective in improving blood sugar levels. Both diets led to clinically relevant improvements in blood pressure. Overall, however, all diets are suitable for a healthy diet.
However, it was also found that many test subjects adhered increasingly less to dietary requirements over the course of the year. That was reflected in the results. After a year, the fasting group had lost an average of four kilograms, the Mediterranean group 2.8 kilograms and the paleo group 1.8 kilograms.
There is no one right diet
"This work supports the idea that there is not just one right diet - there are a number of options that can be suitable and effective for different people," emphasizes Dr. Melyssa Roy from the research team. However, only around half of the participants managed to maintain the chosen nutritional concept for over a year.
The diet should suit the person
"Like the Mediterranean diet, intermittent fasting and the paleo diet can also be valid approaches to a healthy diet - the best diet is one that contains healthy foods and is suitable for the individual," sums up the nutrition expert.
Mediterranean diet has been followed the longest
Dr. Michelle Jospe added that the easiest way for participants to adhere to the Mediterranean diet. "Our participants were able to follow the diet guidelines more precisely than the fasting or paleo diet," said Jospe. In addition, most of the participants in this group continued to follow the nutritional concept even after the study had ended. (vb)
Also read: Metabotyping: Effective weight loss through personalized nutrition.
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek
- University of Otago: Weight loss and health improvements with Mediterranean, fasting and paleo diets (Posted: Jan 24, 2020), otago.ac.nz
- Michelle R Jospe, Melyssa Roy, Rachel C Brown: Intermittent fasting, Paleolithic, or Mediterranean diets in the real world: exploratory secondary analyzes of a weight-loss trial that included choice of diet and exercise; in: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2019, academic.oup.com