While the study was a controlled experiment and offers solid evidence that both a vegetarian and Mediterranean diet can help lower certain risk factors for heart disease, the experiment wasn't created to show why one diet might be better for cholesterol or triglycerides, noted Cheryl Anderson, author of an accompanying editorial and a researcher at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine. A low-calorie lacto-ovo vegetarian diet and a low-calorie Mediterranean diet are similarly effective for reducing body weight, body mass index, and fat mass for overweight omnivores, according to a study published online February 26 in Circulation. New research has found that a meat-free diet could be just as effective at reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke as the popular Mediterranean diet.
The two diets are also thought to have comparable effects on the heart as both cause similar BMI and fat-mass changes, the research adds.
Dr. Francesco Sofi, study lead author and a professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Florence and Careggi University Hospital in Italy said, "take-home message of our study is that a low-calorie lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet can help patients reduce cardiovascular risk about the same as a low-calorie Mediterranean diet". For body mass index and fat mass, the results were similar. On the other hand, Mediterranean diet led to a greater drop in triglycerides, which at higher levels can be a risk factor for the same conditions.
The study, published in journal Circulation, included 107 healthy but overweight participants, aged between 18 and 75.
Response: Both diets, if well conducted and supervised, are beneficial for weight loss and for reducing cardiovascular risk. They're both heavy on whole grains, produce, legumes and nuts, though vegetarians tended to make up for lost meat and fish with extra beans, nuts, eggs and dairy products, according to the study.
There were two notable differences between the diets, though.
After the three months period ended, the subjects were asked to shift the menus. That's because a combination of olive oil, and complex carbohydrates in fruits and vegetables that are a hallmark of this diet are known to reduce triglycerides.
These should also 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", she urges.