Mediterranean Diet Reduces Children's Risk of Being Overweight

First Posted: Jun 20, 2014 03:46 AM EDT

A new Swedish study found that following a Mediterranean diet helps reduce obesity in children by 15 percent.

Funded by the European Commission, Swedish researchers from the University of Gothenburg analyzed data from eight countries to measure the effects of following a particular diet in children.

The data was taken from Identification and Prevention of Dietary-Lifestyle-Induced health effects in Children and Infants (IDEFICS).  After measuring the weight, height, waist circumference and percent body fat mass of children, the researchers claimed that children adhering to a Mediterranean diet were at reduced risk of being overweight by 15 percent.

Using the questionnaire that was specially designed for the IDEFICS study, the researchers interviewed the parents and enquired on the consumption frequency of 43 foods.  Through telephonic interview additional dietary data was compiled.

The researchers assessed the adherence to a Mediterranean-like diet by assigning one point for high intake of each food group which was considered typical of the Mediterranean diet and one point for low intakes of foods non typical of the Mediterranean diet like diary and meat products.

Researchers say that the prevalence of high adherence to a Mediterranean-like diet was independent of the geographical distribution.  It was the Swedish children who scored the highest followed by Italians and children from Cyprus who scored the least.

The high adherence to a Mediterranean diet was independent of age, sex, country of residence or socio economic status.

Those children who had high adherence at baseline had nearly 10-15 percent reduced chances of being among those who experienced a dramatic rise in body fat, waist circumference and BMI.

"The promotion of a Mediterranean dietary pattern is no longer a feature of Mediterranean countries. 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." says Gianluca Tognon, researcher at the Sahlgrenska Academy.

The finding was presented at this year's European Congress on Obesity (ECO) in Sofia, Bulgaria.

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