Children eating Mediterranean Diet are 15 per cent less likely to be overweight, study
Children eating more in line with the rules of the Mediterranean diet are 15 per cent less likely to be overweight or obese than those children who do not, according to researchers from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.
The study was presented at this year’s European Congress on Obesity (ECO) in Sofia in Bulgaria. The research was undertaken by Dr Gianluca Tognon, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden, and colleagues across the following 8 countries: Sweden, Germany, Spain, Italy, Cyprus, Belgium, Estonia and Hungary.
The researchers used data from the IDEFICS study (Identification and Prevention of Dietary – and lifestyle – induced health effects in Children and infantS), funded by the European Commission. Weight, height, waist circumference, and percent body fat mass were measured in children from the eight countries.
The parents of the children were interviewed by means of a questionnaire specifically designed for the IDEFICS study and enquiring about the consumption frequency of 43 foods. Additional dietary data were complemented by a telephone interview performed on a sub-sample of parents.
Vegetables, fruit, nuts and fish intake measured
The adherence to a Mediterranean-like diet was assessed by a score calculated by giving one point for high intakes of each food group which was considered typical of the Mediterranean diet (vegetables, fruit and nuts, fish and cereal grains), as well as one point for low intakes of foods untypical of the Mediterranean diet (such as dairy and meat products). High scoring children were then considered high-adherent and compared to the others.
Swedish children ‘most Mediterranean’
Interestingly, the study found the prevalence of high adherence to a Mediterranean-like diet was found to be independent of the geographical distribution, with the Swedish children scoring the highest (followed by the Italians) and the children from Cyprus scoring the lowest.
The researchers said the finding that children with a high adherence to a Mediterranean-like diet were 15 per cent less likely to be overweight or obese than low-adherent children was independent of age, sex, socioeconomic status or country of residence.
Children with high adherence at baseline were also 10 to 15 per cent less likely to be among those who went through major increases in BMI, waist circumference and body fat.
“The promotion of a Mediterranean dietary pattern is no longer a feature of Mediterranean countries,” said Gianluca Tognon, researcher at the Sahlgrenska Academy. “Considering its potential beneficial effects on obesity prevention, this dietary pattern should be part of EU obesity prevention strategies and its promotion should be particularly intense in those countries where low levels of adherence are detected,” he said.