London: Overweight adults who follow the Mediterranean, intermittent fasting and paleo diets can accrue weight loss and other health benefits, suggests new research.
Intermittent fasting - whereby participants limit their energy intake to about 25 per cent of their usual diet (500kcal for women and 600kcal for men) on two self-selected days per week, led to slightly more weight loss than the other diets, showed the results of the one-year study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
The amount of weight loss was modest - on average two to four kilograms for the 250 participants, but for those choosing the fasting or Mediterranean diets, clinically significant improvements in blood pressure were also seen, said co-lead author Melyssa Roy, Research Fellow at the University of Otago in New Zealand.
After 12 months, the average weight loss was 4 kg for those choosing the fasting diet, 2.8 kg on the Mediterranean diet and 1.8 kg on the paleo diet, said the study.
The aim of the research was to examine how effective all three diets were in a "real world" setting, where participants self-selected which diet they wished to follow, without any ongoing support from a dietitician.
The evidence shows that for some people the Mediterranean, fasting or paleo (Paleolithic) diets can be "healthful, beneficial ways to eat", Roy said.
"Like the Mediterranean diet, intermittent fasting and paleo diets can also be valid healthy eating approaches - the best diet is the one that includes healthy foods and suits the individual."
The Mediterranean diet encouraged consumption of fruit, vegetables, wholegrain breads and cereals, legumes, nuts, seeds and olive oil with moderate amounts of fish, chicken, eggs and dairy and red meat once a week or less.
The paleo diet consists of mostly less-processed foods with an emphasis on eating fruit and vegetables, animal proteins, nuts, coconut products and extra-virgin olive oil. While "original" paleo diets strictly exclude all legumes, dairy and grains, this study used a modified version including some dairy as well as up to one serving daily of legumes and grain-based food.
The results showed people found the Mediterranean diet to be the easiest to adhere to, said co-lead author Michelle Jospe, a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Otago.
Most of the 250 participants (54 per cent) chose the fasting diet, while 27 per cent chose the Mediterranean and 18 per cent the paleo.
After 12 months, the Mediterranean diet had the best retention rate with 57 per cent of participants continuing, with 54 per cent still fasting and 35 per cent still on the paleo diet.
Reduced systolic blood pressure was observed among those participating in the fasting and Mediterranean diets, together with reduced blood sugar levels in the Mediterranean diet.