Several mainstream media sources last year touted the Mediterranean diet as an effective method for prevention of the expected middle-age weight gain. Reuters is one source, for example. Men on the Mediterranean diet gained 2 lb (about a kilogram) less than other men over six years. Mediterranean-dieting women gained weight too, but a whole 0.77 lb (0.35 kg) less than others.
The media attention was based on a Spanish study of over 10,000 men and women university graduates over the course of six years. Average baseline age was 38. A Mediterranean diet score was calculated based on a food frequency questionnaire given only at the start of the study. Adherence with a Mediterranean-style diet was judged for each individual as either low, medium, or high.
You’d think this research report would tell you how much weight these folks gained on average over six years, and how many pounds less if one followed the Mediterranean diet. Think again. No such luck, which reminds me of one of my favorite aphorisms: “eschew obfuscation.”
I had to do my own calculations based on Table 3. And I still don’t know how much the average person in this cohort gained over six years.
I am a die-hard Mediterranean diet advocate. It’s linked to myriad health benefits. I’d love to believe it prevents middle-age weight gain. But the results of this study are so modest as to be almost nonexistent.
Reference: Beunza, J., Toledo, E., Hu, F., Bes-Rastrollo, M., Serrano-Martinez, M., Sanchez-Villegas, A., Martinez, J., & Martinez-Gonzalez, M. (2010). Adherence to the Mediterranean diet, long-term weight change, and incident overweight or obesity: the Seguimiento Universidad de Navarra (SUN) cohort American Journal of Clinical Nutrition DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.2010.29764