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More Fruits And Veggies Can Slash Obesity Odds. Graphic © herbshealthhappiness.com. Background photo – Pixabay (PD)
The European Congress on Obesity was held recently in Porto, Portugal – and a Spanish study reaffirmed the importance of pro-vegetarian diets in providing substantial protection against obesity. The observational study examined real human populations and found out that the risk of developing obesity can be cut by almost half if people adopt a higher ratio of plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits, and grains. 
The research was carried out by University of Navarra student Julen Sanz under the guidance of Dr. Alfredo Gea and Professor Maira Bes-Rastrollo, who both work at Carlos III Institute of Health or CIBERobn. The collaborators wanted to explore the role of pro-vegetarian diet on the risk of developing obesity in healthy populations. They gathered data from the SUN Cohort  which is a study tracking the health of Spanish graduates since 1999.
Sanz and his team used detailed food questionnaires to determine the diet of the participants. For those who ate seven plant groups: vegetables, grains, nuts, olive oil, and legumes, points were added, while points were subtracted for those who consumed animal fats, dairy, eggs, fish, and other seafood, as well as meat. They tracked the participants for ten years after university graduation. During that period, the study recorded 600 participants who became obese.
According to the authors, their study supports the current recommendation to shift to diets rich in plant-based foods, with lower intake of animal foods. However, they clarified that their findings only show observational differences rather than “lab” evidence of cause and effect.
The study’s key findings are outlined below:
• More animal protein and animal fat means higher risk of obesity.
• Less animal protein and animal fat taken, lower risk of obesity.
• Those who had the “most vegetarian” diet were least likely to become obese.
• Other factors such as family history of obesity, age, sleep duration, snacking, sex, and physical consumption were not considered by the study.
A plant-based diet is now popularly known as the Mediterranean diet,  which is common in Italy, Spain, and Greece. With its reliance on fruits, vegetables, nuts, and less meat, Mediterranean diet equates with eating three servings of fruit and four portions of vegetables daily. The diet also requires regular intake of legumes, olive oil, wholegrain, nuts, and seeds.
The classic Mediterranean diet originally came to the awareness of health buffs in 1993 when the Harvard School of Public Health and the European Office of the World Health Organization  introduced the concept at a conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The organizations also presented a “Mediterranean Diet Pyramid” graphic to represent it visually.
A positive correlation has been found between this diet and a longer life. Since then, the Mediterranean diet has been associated with good health and has been embraced by the natural health community. Several studies attest to the health benefits offered by Mediterranean diet as discussed below:
1. In 2011, a Croatian study  sought to investigate the beneficial and preventive role of the diet in the prevention of stroke. The authors confirmed that the Mediterranean diet is associated with significant reduction in mortality from cardiovascular diseases and stroke. The study also noted the importance of Mediterranean diet in reducing the incidence of or mortality from cancer and incidence of mild cognitive impairment.
2. In another study, researchers posited the role of the Mediterranean diet as anti-inflammatory dietary pattern  for diseases related to chronic inflammation such as metabolic syndrome.
3. In 2007, a Greek study  highlighted the importance of the Mediterranean dietary patterns in the prevention of coronary heart disease.
 European Association for the Study of Obesity. 2017. Eating a diet rich in fruit and vegetables could cut obesity risk. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/05/170518220955.htm
 Martínez-González MA. 2006. Public Health Nutrition. The SUN cohort study (Seguimiento University of Navarra). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16512960
 National Health Service. What is a Mediterranean diet? https://nhs.uk/Livewell/Goodfood/Pages/what-is-a-Mediterranean-diet.aspx
 History of the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid. https://oldwayspt.org/history-mediterranean-diet-pyramid
 Demarin V et al. 2011. Acta Clinica Croatica. Mediterranean diet in healthy lifestyle and prevention of stroke. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22034786
 Babio N et al. 2009. Public Health Nutrition. Mediterranean diet and metabolic syndrome: the evidence. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23432189
 Dontas AS et al. 2007. Clinical Interventions in Aging. Mediterranean diet and prevention of coronary heart disease in the elderly. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2684076/
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