A 'green' Mediterranean diet burns visceral fat faster than a classic Med diet, reducing risks of heart disease and cancer, study finds

A 'green' Mediterranean diet burns visceral fat faster than a classic Med diet, reducing risks of heart disease and cancer, study finds
Leafy greens, olive oil, nuts, and green tea contain plant nutrients linked to lower risk of disease that may help burn a dangerous type of body fat.Nicholas77/Getty Images
  • A Mediterranean-style diet with added plant foods may help burn fat faster, a new study suggests.
  • The nutrient-dense eating plan may help reduce a type of fat linked to higher risk of disease.

A Mediterranean diet with extra nutrients could help reduce a risky type of body fat linked to cancer and heart disease, new research suggests.

The eating plan — known as a "green" Mediterranean diet — is based on cuisines in regions where people live the longest, healthiest lives, and adding foods like green tea and protein-rich plants could make it even healthier according to the study, published September 30 in BMC Medicine.

A team led by researchers at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel looked at data from 294 adults to compare the health benefits of two types of Mediterranean diet against general healthy eating recommendations to eat less fat and salt, and more vegetables.

The researchers wanted to see if the diets could help reduce visceral fat, a type of body fat that accumulates around the organs and increases the risk of dangerous illnesses like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

Participants on the regular Mediterranean diet reduced red meat, processed foods, and refined carbohydrates (like white bread and sugary treats) and ate more healthy fats such as olive oil. The group lost 7% of visceral fat, on average, by the end of the 18-month study, compared to 4.5% fat loss in the general healthy diet group.


But the modified green Mediterranean diet was twice as effective, helping people lose 14% of their visceral fat. Those dieters drank four cups a day of green tea and a green shake made of a high-protein, vitamin-rich plant called duckweed, in addition to cutting back on red meat and processed foods. The green diet also led to slightly more weight loss overall.

The results are "a dramatic achievement for making simple changes to your diet and lifestyle," lead study author Hila Zelicha, post-doctoral fellow at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, said in a press release.

By helping to reduce visceral fat, the green Mediterranean diet could improve heart health and blood sugar control, and stave off chronic disease, according to the study authors.

Foods like green tea, nuts, and leafy greens are high in beneficial nutrients called polyphenols

The advantage of the green Mediterranean diet, researchers theorized, is that it's rich is polyphenols, plant-based nutrients which evidence has linked to a protective effect against chronic disease

The traditional Mediterranean diet is already high in foods like olive oil and leafy green vegetables which contain polyphenols.


Both Mediterranean diets in the recent study also included a handful of walnuts per day. Once shunned on diets for being high in calories and fat, nuts are now considered one of the healthiest foods, packed with fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, as well as

The green Mediterranean diet included even more polyphenols and other antioxidants in the form of green tea, which evidence suggests can help reduce cholesterol and inflammation, and boost brain and heart health. The green shake included on the diet also added protein as well as a specific type of B vitamin called folate, which may have also helped with reducing visceral fat, according to the researchers.

The findings of study suggest that what people eat on a diet may be just as important as how much, according to Iris Shai, senior author of the study and professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the university. Research is continuing to uncover which specific foods may be uniquely helpful for burning fat and protecting against illness, Shai said in a press release.

"A healthy lifestyle is a strong basis for any weight loss program. We learned from the results of our experiment that the quality of food is no less important than the number of calories consumed," she said.