A recent study conducted by the Prevención con Dieta Mediterránea-Plus (PREDIMED-Plus) suggests that the Mediterranean diet, when combined with physical activity, can be a highly effective approach for minimizing fat accumulation and preserving muscle mass during the aging process.
Published in JAMA Network Open on October 18, the research involved 1,521 participants, middle-aged and older individuals who were either overweight or obese. These participants were separated into two groups, both adhering to the Mediterranean diet. The first group followed a lower-calorie Mediterranean diet that reduced total caloric intake by 30 percent while simultaneously increasing physical activity levels. The second group adhered to the Mediterranean diet without any calorie limitations or changes in physical activity.
Remarkably, after just one year of adhering to the diet, the first group exhibited “clinically meaningful” modifications in their body composition, including a 5% or greater reduction in fat mass, visceral fat mass (commonly referred to as belly fat), and preservation of lean muscle mass.
The Mediterranean diet is widely recognized as a heart-healthy dietary plan, as highlighted by the American Heart Association. They state that this style of eating can contribute significantly to preventing heart disease and stroke, reducing risk factors such as obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. The diet prioritizes whole foods, including fruits and vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and olive oil as the primary fat source, with a moderate intake of dairy products, fish, poultry, and limited red meat. Additionally, the Mediterranean diet promotes minimally processed, plant-based foods and, in moderation, even includes wine consumption.
This study emphasizes that the Mediterranean diet, particularly when combined with increased physical activity, can be an effective strategy for combatting age-related fat gain and muscle loss.