So you’re trying to lose weight, and you’re standing in front of your fridge wondering what on Earth you’re going to make for yourself. After all, there are plenty of diet choices out there to help you on your way.
If it makes your options any easier, a new study has found that two different diets appear to be equally effective at helping people shed weight. A Mediterranean diet — rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, poultry, fish, and even a little red meat — and a vegetarian diet that included eggs and low-fat dairy, but no meat or fish, ran neck and neck when it came to helping people lose weight.
For the study, researchers from Italy tracked 107 healthy but overweight adults between the ages of 18 and 75. The participants were randomly assigned to follow either a low-calorie vegetarian diet for three months or a Mediterranean diet over the same timeframe. Then they all swapped eating plans. Meanwhile, the researchers took a baseline and ongoing measurements including body weight, body mass index (BMI), and lipid levels.
When the results were tallied, it was a win-win. On both diets, the participants:
Lost approximately three pounds of body fat.
Dropped about four pounds of weight overall.
Experienced similar changes in BMI, a measurement that takes into account a person’s weight and height.
It’s the first study to compare how the two different eating styles stack up against each other, the authors said.
“The results of this study suggest that both diets, if well conducted, are beneficial for weight loss and for cardiovascular risk prevention,” lead study author Dr Francesco Sofi, M.D., PhD, professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Florence, told Men’s Health.
When it came to heart health, the two diets had perks, too. The vegetarian diet was more effective at reducing LDL cholesterol — the “bad” kind — while the Mediterranean diet lowered triglycerides (higher levels are linked to a higher risk of heart attack and stroke).
“We now have two healthy options for preventing cardiovascular diseases,” Sofi says.
There’s a lot of social pressure to find the magic bullet diet, Cheryl Anderson, Ph.D., associate professor of preventive medicine at the University of California, San Diego, in California, wrote in an accompanying editorial. The new findings show there’s more than one way to drop pounds and “optimize cardiovascular health,” she said.
The two styles of eating have a lot of overlap, Sofi says. “Mediterranean and lacto-ovo-vegetarian diets have similar features in common such as fruit, vegetables, complex and non-refined carbohydrates and legumes,” he explains. So pile on the berries, greens, low-fat Greek yoghurt, fish, eggs, and beans — whatever fills you up.
By Mary Brophy Marcus