Vegetarian or Mediterranean diet for weight loss? Both work equally well, says study

By Tim Cutcliffe contact

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock
© iStock

Related tags: Mediterranean diet, Body mass index, Nutrition

Lacto-ovo vegetarian (LOV) and Mediterranean diets are equally effective for reducing weight, according to a recent study in Circulation.

Followers of two different healthy diet patterns showed similar reductions in weight, body mass index (BMI) and fat mass after 3 months, found researchers from the University of Florence, Italy in conjunction with Careggi University Hospital, Florence.

The LOV diet was however more effective in reducing ‘bad’ low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDLC) whereas Mediterranean diet followers saw a greater reduction in triglycerides.

After 3 months of dietary intervention, both LOV and MD were effective in reducing body weight, body mass index, and fat mass, with no significant differences between them,” ​commented study first author Professor Francesco Sofi.


The announcement of the findings comes soon after the results of another recent study​ covered by NutraIngredients, which showed equal effectiveness of low-carb and low-fat diets for losing weight.

The common theme from both studies appears to suggest that following a healthy dietary pattern, and simply eating less are keys elements of a sustainable weight management programme which can be easily adhered to.

“The dietary changes that participants made, whether following the low-calorie vegetarian diet or the Mediterranean diet, are consistent with contemporary diet guidelines, which include following a healthy dietary pattern rich in fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and nuts; focusing on diet variety, nutrient density, and appropriate amount of food; and limiting energy intake from saturated fats,” ​commented Professor Cheryl Anderson from the University of California, San Diego in an editorial​ accompanying the study.

“It is important to note that overall adherence to the study diet protocol was high, and participants were equally adherent to the vegetarian and Mediterranean diets​.”

Both patterns of dietary intervention “offer a possible solution to the ongoing challenges to prevent and manage obesity and cardiovascular diseases​," added Anderson, who was not involved in the study.

Study design

The CARDIVEG trial (Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease With the Vegetarian Diet) was a randomised open crossover study, which enrolled 107 healthy, but overweight, adults with ages ranging from 18-75 years. The participants were randomly assigned to follow a low-calorie lacto-ovo vegetarian diet or a low-calorie Mediterranean diet for three months. The participants subsequently switched diets for the second three-month period of the trial.

The scientists measured changes in body weight and composition; biochemical parameters including blood lipids, electrolytes and other minerals; oxidative stress parameters and inflammatory markers.

However, a major limitation was that the study population were at low risk of heart disease. Future research should include higher risk patients and explore "whether or not healthful versions of traditional diets around the world that emphasize fresh foods and limit sugars, saturated fats, and sodium can prevent and manage obesity and cardiovascular diseases,” ​concluded Anderson.

Source: Circulation
Volume 137, issue 9, doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.117.030088
Low-Calorie Vegetarian Versus Mediterranean Diets for Reducing Body Weight and Improving Cardiovascular Risk Profile
Authors: Francesco Sofi et al

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