A Mediterranean diet with extra walnuts, green tea and the aquatic plant duckweed helps reduce dangerous build-ups of visceral fat, say researchers.
They carried out trials with 294 participants over an 18-month period to compare the “green Mediterranean diet” with a standard Mediterranean diet (whole grains, vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, and seeds) and a regular healthy diet.
The team, based at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, found that those on the green Med diet lost an average of 14 per cent of their visceral fat, compared with 7 per cent for those on standard Med, and 4.5 per cent for those on a regular healthy diet.
Visceral fat, also known as “hidden fat”, is stored deep inside the intestines, wrapped around the organs. Reducing it is considered the true goal of weight loss as it is a more important indicator than a person’s weight or the circumference of their waist.
Visceral fat aggregates over time between organs and produces hormones and poisons linked to heart disease, diabetes, dementia and premature death.
The green Med volunteers ate an ounce of walnuts every day, and drank three to four cups of green tea, as well as a shake made from four ounces of frozen duckweed – which despite its off-putting name, is high in easily-digested protein, iron, B12, vitamins, minerals, polyphenols (natural nutrients). The volunteers also reduced their red meat intake.
“A healthy lifestyle is a strong basis for any weight loss program,” said Iris Shai, Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology, who led the study.
“We learned from the results of our experiment that the quality of food is no less important than the number of calories consumed and the goal today is to understand the mechanisms of various nutrients, for example, positive ones such as the polyphenols, and negative ones such as empty carbohydrates and processed red meat, on the pace of fat cell differentiation and their aggregation in the viscera (intestines).”
The study was published in BMC Medicine.