Study reveals the best diet for actually losing weight and keeping it off

At the peak of our latest diet boom, new data published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has officially backed a horse.

After an in-depth analysis of 250 participants, the researchers determined that overweight adults who adhere to the Mediterranean diet, intermittent fasting or the Paleo diet will lose weight fairly quickly and reap profound health benefits—particularly ones pertaining to cellular vascular health.  Of the three diets explored in the report The Mediterranean diet proved to be the most sustainable.

“Like the Mediterranean diet, intermittent fasting and paleo diets can also be valid healthy eating approaches – the best diet is the one that includes healthy foods and suits the individual,” said the study’s co-lead author Melyssa Roy, Research Fellow at the University of Otago in New Zealand.

The merits and rules of each diet

Over the course of the study period (12 months), 54% of the 250 participants chose intermittent fasting, 27% chose the Mediterranean diet and 18% chose the Paleo diet.

Participants who fasted lost a little more than eight and a half pounds on average, participants who followed the Mediterranean diet lost a little more than six and half pounds on average, and the median amount that participants who adhered to the Paleo diet lost was just under four pounds.

In addition to losing weight relatively quickly all of the diets studied except the Paleo diet produced sizable reductions in blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

Although the difference in time-lapsed wasn’t all that dramatic for subjects who chose to fast over the ones who opted for the Mediterranean diet, more individuals who adhered to the latter stuck with it after the initial study period ended. “The results showed people found the Mediterranean diet to be the easiest to adhere to,” explained co-lead author Michelle Jospe, a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Otago.

Fifty-seven percent of participants kept on with the Mediterranean diet after 12 months, 54%  continued to fast and 35% remained on the Paleo diet.

All of the diets examined can be followed in a number of different ways. In this particular study, interment fasting required female followers to consume no more than 500 calories on two selected days per week, while men were permitted to limit their calorie intake to 600 alongside the same time rubric.

Participants who took up the Mediterranean regimen formulated meals that incorporated fruits, vegetables, wholegrain bread and cereals, legumes, nuts, seeds, and olive oil with limited amounts of fish, chicken, eggs and dairy and red meat once a week or less.

Typically the Paleo diet excludes dairy, grains, and legumes however, the version of the diet employed in the study permitted one daily serving of legumes and one daily serving of grain-based foods. Other than those two modifications participants were advised to consume plenty of fruits and vegetables, animal proteins, nuts, coconut products and extra-virgin olive oil.

The authors implemented these changes in order to determine how effective each regimen was in a “real-world” setting when adopted by average low-income to middle-class individuals.