Taste of Mediterranean leads to health benefits, say experts
We've already got a taste of Mediterranean weather this summer - and now the advice of experts is to adopt the eating habits of our fellow Europeans in Italy and Spain.
A study published today says that we should all eat a diet which is high in vegetable fats, such as olive oil and nuts.
The findings, based on a large randomised trial and published in the prestigious 'Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology' journal, are the latest to contradict current guidelines which advise us to eat a low-fat diet.
The good news, according to the study, is that we don't even have to watch calories much and, compared with a low-fat diet, the Mediterranean diet does not lead to significant weight gain.
The study suggests that health guidelines that recommend a low-fat, low-calorie diet create unnecessary fear of the healthy fats present in a Mediterranean diet, which have known health benefits.
It follows a recent controversial report from the Public Health Collaboration in the UK, which said eating "fat does not make you fat" and suggested we should consume more whole foods, such as meat, fish and dairy.The latest study, led by Dr Ramon Estruch at the University of Barcelona in Spain, agrees that the low-fat mantra has not worked and obesity levels are rising.
However, Dr Ramon also warned against diets with high levels of unhealthy fats, such as butter, processed meat, sweetened drinks or fast foods and desserts.
The study was conducted in 11 hospitals in Spain between 2003 and 2010 and included 7,447 participants aged 55-80 who were randomly assigned to one of three groups.
These included an unrestricted-calorie Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil, an unrestricted-calorie Mediterranean diet rich in nuts and a low-fat diet where the advice was to avoid all dietary fat.
Trained dieticians gave personalised dietary advice.
Irish obesity expert Prof Donal O'Shea said: "This is a welcome study. We are now realising that one size fits all for nutrition just isn't right.
"In all likelihood, locally grown products consumed by people in that region are naturally good for you.
"Simply transferring a diet that's healthy in one area doesn't mean it will be healthy elsewhere."