Looking for a diet that can help reduce dangerous visceral fat? The Green Mediterranean diet may be the one apt for the task.
The Mediterranean diet (MED) has consistently been at the top of the list of healthiest diets people can engage in. In fact, it was once again number one on U.S. News & World Report’s Best Diets this year, marking the fifth year in a row that it has taken the top spot.
But when it comes to reducing visceral adipose tissue (VAT), will the traditional Mediterranean diet still come out on top? Or will the modified Green Mediterranean diet take the crown?
VAT is a type of fat that’s very dangerous as it tends to wrap around one’s internal organs, the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) noted in a news release. It has been “closely related to the development of multiple cardiovascular risk factors” and is “an independent marker of mortality,” a team of researchers noted in their study, published in BMC Medicine.
“Visceral adipose tissue (VAT) accumulation is one of the main key factors that differentiate between metabolic healthy and unhealthy obese individuals,” they wrote.
Researchers looked at the impact of the Green Mediterranean diet on VAT. The Green Mediterranean diet is one that, just like the traditional one, is rich in foods like whole grains, fruits, legumes, fish and olive oil. The difference is that it is high in dietary polyphenols and green plant-based proteins, and low in red- and processed meats.
In other words, it is a “greener version” of the traditional Mediterranean diet.
The researchers conducted an 18-month study, the Dietary Intervention Randomized Controlled Trial PoLyphenols UnproceSsed (DIRECT-PLUS), that involved 294 participants, who followed either the simple healthy dietary guidelines, the Mediterranean diet or the Green Mediterranean diet.
The participants’ adipose tissues were then examined through MRI scans. Incredibly, the team found that those who followed the Green Mediterranean diet had 14% reduced visceral fat. By comparison, those who opted for the traditional Mediterranean diet lost 7%, while those who followed the healthy diet lost an even lower 4.5% of visceral fat.
This means the Green Mediterranean diet has led to a reduction in visceral fat that’s “more than twice” the VAT lost with the traditional Mediterranean diet.
“A 14% reduction in visceral fat is a dramatic achievement for making simple changes to your diet and lifestyle,” said study author Hila Zelicha, of BGU. “Weight loss is an important goal only if it is accompanied by impressive results in reducing adipose tissue.”
These results suggest the modified Green Mediterranean diet could be quite effective in reducing potentially dangerous visceral fat. And polyphenols might be behind the VAT loss. Polyphenols are phytochemicals present in many plant-based foods and they have been studied for their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
“A green-MED diet enriched with polyphenols and decreased red meat consumption might serve as an improved version of the MED diet for targeted VAT reduction,” the researchers wrote. “Future studies are needed to explore the exact mechanisms of specific polyphenol-rich foods on visceral adiposity.”
The team behind the DIRECT-PLUS trial was the first to introduce the Green Mediterranean diet, according to BGU. In a previous study, the diet was found to be even better for heart and metabolic health than the traditional Mediterranean diet.