A diet rich in fruit and vegetables can halve the risk of obesity
A Mediterranean-style diet could cut the risk of obesity by almost half according to a major new study.
The research on 16,000 people found a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grains and olive oil cut the chance of becoming dangerously overweight by 43 per cent.
Eating a Mediterranean diet has long been linked to better heart health.
But until now, it is unclear whether it could help prevent weight gain.
The new research carried out by the University of Navarra, and Carlos III Institute of Health in Spain, tracked participants for an average of 10 years.Fruit and vegetables are key to the 'Med diet' Credit: Christopher Pledger
It found that the higher the proportion of vegetables, fruit and legumes in their diet, the lower their chance of obesity, compared with those eating more meat and animal fats.Â
The participants with the lowest risk of obesity did not cut out meat completely, but had a far lower intake of it than those eating a traditional British diet, and also ate plenty of fish.
The study was carried by University of Navarra and theÂ University of Navarra, and CIBERobn (Carlos III Institute of Health), Spain.
Participants completed detailed food questionnaires at the start of the study which tracked them for an average of 10 years.Â
Points were given for eating seven plant food groupsâvegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, olive oil, legumes (such as peas, beans, and lentils) and potatoes.Â
Points were subtracted for five animal groupsâanimal fats, dairy, eggs, fish and other seafood, and meat.Â
During follow-up, 584 participants became obese.Â
The researchers found that the fifth of participants who had eaten the greatest share of plant based food in their diet were the least likely to become obese. The group also ate plenty of fish, in keeping with the principles of the Med diet.
Lead researcher Julen Sanz, from the University of Navarra in Spain, said: âOur study suggests that plant-based diets are associated with substantially lower risk of developing obesity. This supports current recommendations to shift to diets rich in plant foods, with lower intake of animal foods.â
The study was presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Porto.Â
Tam Fry, from the National Obesity Forum said: "British research has calculated that 19,000 a year could be saved if we ate our five-a-day or more, Â In addition the Mediterranean diet cuts the risk of cancer and stroke by 40% and also keeps the brain young ".
Dr Aseem Malhotra, consultant cardiologist said: âThis study provides further strong evidence that adopting a Mediterranean style diet significantly Â reduces the chances of obesity.Â
âThe UK government need to urgently adopt a health policy that makes a healthy diet easily accessible and affordable for all. Not only will this reverse the obesity epidemic but it will quickly reduce the burden of all associated lifestyle diseases that have brought our NHS to the brink of collapse.â
Gaynor Bussell, a dietitian and member of the British Dietetic Association, said it was important to achieve a balanced diet, which could include fish, some meat and dairy.Â
âThe Mediterranean diet with its reliance on fruit, veg, nuts, beans and little meat is probably an ideal mix,â she said.
The Med diet is common in countries such as Italy, Spain and Greece.
It means eating around three servings of fruit and four portions of vegetables daily, with plenty of legumes, olive oil and wholegrains, nuts and seeds.
Normally, the diet includes at least four portions ofÂ fish a week, but limits the amount of meat eaten, to no more than three portions a week.Â