The Mediterranean diet is often lauded as one of the healthiest diets around, taking inspiration from the eating habits of those living in Spain, Greece and Southern Italy - however, the vegetarian diet might not be too far behind in terms of heart health and weight loss, new research suggests.
Published in the journal Circulation, the study examined the effects of both diets on 107 overweight but otherwise healthy adults for a six-month-long period, with participants spending half of that time consuming a Mediterranean diet before switching to a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet.
While the former advocates lean proteins, nuts and whole grains, the latter excludes meat and fish but permits dairy and eggs.
Participants attended regular health checks throughout the duration of the study and were advised on how to cut down on calories by menus designed by nutritionists.
Following final examinations, the Italian researchers concluded that both diets were as effective in reducing body weight, fat mass and body mass index, with the average participant losing 1.88kg on the vegetarian diet and another 1.77kg on the Mediterranean diet.
They also examined the effect both diets had on participants’ cardiovascular health and found that both were equally effective in different ways.
Being on the vegetarian diet led to reduced levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, often referred to as the “bad” kind of cholesterol due to its propensity to build-up in the arteries and potentially cause a stroke or a heart attack.
Meanwhile, the study revealed that the Mediterranean diet was more effective at reducing triglyceride levels, or fatty acids, which can be similarly detrimental to heart health when a buildup occurs.
Speaking to Reuters, lead author Dr. Francesco Sofi said: “The take-home message is that a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet is easy and feasible to follow, without any health problems, if well conducted and prepared by an instructed nutritionist.
“This helps you to reduce some cardiovascular risk factors as well as a Mediterranean diet.”