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Mediterranean Diet and Low-Carb Diet Neck and Neck

When it comes to dieting, we all want to know what is most effective. A new study performed in Israel found that a low-carb Atkins like diet and the Mediterranean diet outperformed the low-fat diet. The study lasted two years, considerably longer than previous studies, and the weight loss period was limited to 6 months with a maintenance period of 18 months – I think the maintenance period is truly where a diet's success can be measured.

To see what the different dieters ate, just


Here's a breakdown of what randomly assigned 322 moderately obese participants ate:

  • Low-Fat: Based on the American Heart Association guidelines, women ate 1,500 calories a day and men ate 1,800. Only 30 percent of daily calories came from fat, and dietary cholesterol was restricted to 300 mg – an egg has about 210 mg. Meals were built around low-fat grains, veggies, beans and fruit.
  • Low-Carb: Based on the Atkins plan, calories were not restricted but the daily intake of carbs was limited to 20 grams of carbs a day, for the first two months, but increased to 120 grams for the remainder of the study – a half cup of cooked white rice contains about 30 grams of carbs. Participants were to obtain fat and protein mostly from vegetarian sources and avoid trans fat.
  • Mediterranean: Based on Harvard Medical School's Walter Millet's dietary suggestions, women ate 1,500 calories a day and men ate 1,800 calories. Only 35 percent of the calories were to come from fat, mostly in the form of olive oil and nuts. The meals were high in veggies, but low in red meat. Beef and lamb were replaced with fish and chicken.

The results were pretty interesting. On average, those following the low-carb diet lost 10.3 pounds and the average weight loss for the Mediterranean diet was 10 pounds even. The low-fat diet average weight loss was 6.5 pounds. Interestingly enough, the women following the Mediterranean diet lost 13 pounds compared to the women on the low-fat diet who only lost one pound. All the diets show other health benefits as well, with an increase in healthy cholesterol in the low-carb diet and a decrease in blood sugar levels in the Mediterranean diet.

The bottom line is that all the diets offer benefits and there is not a one size fits all approach to dieting. If counting calories doesn't work for you a low-carb option might be best for you, but if limiting carbs is beyond measure for you then go Mediterranean. The trick is to pick a diet, or should I say lifestyle, that you can follow for the long term.

Have you followed any of these diets? Tell us how it worked for you in the comment section below.


Join The Conversation
FionaF FionaF 8 years
I lost more than 40 pounds doing Atkins, and since then I follow the maintenance part of the diet, but it is not a diet, it is a way of life, which I really like. I eat mainly chicken and fish, lots of veggies, good fat like olive oil, olives and nuts and try to keep flour and sugar far from me. I am not only in good shape, but I feel better than ever.
Giasbash6260 Giasbash6260 8 years
I follow a very strict low-carb mediteranean diet and I believe in it whole-heartedly! My diet consists of lean meats,fish & chicken, olive oil, flaxseed oil, vegetables of all types (except for corn, peas, potatoes, etc) and nori sheets...I allow myself olives, sundried tomatoes, mustard (without sugar), tomato paste & tomato sauces (without sugar), coffee/tea & sometimes sugar-free energy drinks... I feel healthy, energetic and all around good!
neonbible neonbible 9 years
rabidmoon, i totally agree. low carb at it's core is pretty healthy if you dont eat packaged low carb crap and high fatty foods. things like organic lean meat, colourful veggies, stevia sweetened protein powder, a variety of nuts and nut buters, legumes, tofu, organic eggs, healthy oils and fats, etc... i mean i had a ferocious sweet tooth and low carbing has curbed it and to date i'm down from 197lbs to 160lbs today and i know the last 30-35lbs will be easy to loose because I love this way of eating plus you get tons of energy when you cut out sugars for a while
hepsmom hepsmom 9 years
Eat more QUINOA!!!! Sorry, but I recently found it and it has been a revelation. I don't know if I've ever eaten anything more filling. That's my new diet/eating plan idea. I try not to have any artificial sweeteners (which is way difficult while avoiding sugar also). Sorry for the wing-nut comment!
rabidmoon rabidmoon 9 years
Natural food is always the best. It just makes me sad that proper low-carb dieting was swallowed up by the packaged food industries, when at its heart its about healthy meats, fats, and vegetables. Though sticking to the strictest types is not so easy for me, adopting some of its wiser principles has been one of the best long-term things I ever did for my health and permanent weight maintenance....avoiding processed foods, "white" refined foods, "empty" snack foods and sugary sodas alone cuts out a huge swathe of crap that people really should avoid putting into their bodies.
Red-Sharpie Red-Sharpie 9 years
What I get from this is that the "low carb" and mediterranean diets both were a lot more effective than low fat. I put low carb in quotes because it wasn't particularly low in carbs - 40% of their calories ended up coming from carbohydrates so it was much more south beach than atkins in the end. Also, considering they were all obese none of the diets did particularly well. By the way, if you look only at the weight loss from people who completed the 2 years of the study (which I think are the only ones who matter, myself) low carb lost a couple more pounds on average than mediterranean. I would have liked to see more women participate because the differences between men and women were interesting. I hope someone does a follow up study on that. I also wished they had stuck with a true atkins diet and stayed lower in carbohydrates and not encouraged fat and protein sources from plants so we could see a better comparison. I would also wish they would have taken some surveys on satiety to see which diets satisfied hunger better as well. All this study really says is that low fat isn't really that great for health or weight loss and that there are definitely alternatives that I hope the medical world will recognize as both effective and healthy. Weight loss is not one size fits all. Also it was very interesting that the low carb diet was the only one that wasn't calorie restricted and they still lost the most weight. They reduced calories spontaneously just by eating fewer carbohydrates, or else because they knew it was a study and became more conscious of their food choices. Either way, it is interesting, especially for those that do not like counting calories.
Spectra Spectra 9 years
Considering the study was done in Israel, I'm guessing they didn't follow the traditional Atkins diet...they probably ate more of a Kosher diet, I'm guessing. I've always followed a diet that's naturally low in processed foods and high in fruits, veggies, and lean protein. I think it's better to follow a diet that's rich in natural foods vs. a low-fat diet filled with fake-fat foods or a low carb diet filled with fake-sugar foods.
rabidmoon rabidmoon 9 years
Low-carbing worked great for me in the past. I still like the diet in principle but now use more of a "Low GI/low-ish carb" approach...virtually no rice, no white bread, no sugar. I eat wholewheat pasta, oat and grain breads, and some potatoes but in moderation. I eat duck, beef, fish, eggs and chicken but am not a big pork person. I eat butter, cream, whole milk, whole yoghurt, and avoid artificial sweetners, artificially "lightened" food in any form. I have only had problems with weight when I eat a lot of white carby foods, or take no exercise. Eating what I want in moderation, minus a few "offenders", and exercising has resulted in a 5 lb weight loss in about 50 days, painlessly. I refuse to "diet" again. :)
SoBourjois SoBourjois 9 years
ugh,I did the Atkins diet years ago, and lost 6 lbs in a week but felt like total crap. The Mediterranean diet sounds good tho'. I really need a diet that includes waffles and syrup. I love breakfast!
coco-cat coco-cat 9 years
looveee Mediterranean
Cebca Cebca 9 years
Is the girl in that photo eating a waffle cone with chopsticks? What is that?
IKindaHeartU IKindaHeartU 9 years
Having tried sooo many diets I agree that it really is about making a lifestyle choice that works for you. Like when I tried to go all vegan than realized just how much I luv chiken!! I also think as you get older you just want to be healthier.
platinum89 platinum89 9 years
i sort of incorporate all of them... picking lower carb options (sweet potato vs normal; whole grains vs refined, etc) and healthier fat options (nuts!!! love them!) i limit trans fat as much as possible (your allowed to live and have a piece of cake on a rare occasion!) i limit my consumption of red meat (though a grilled steak marinated in italian dressing will always have my heart... literally too i guess!) and i eat seafood at least twice a week and i try to have one meat free day. its just all about balance really. i dont eat a lot of grain products (my one exception is my daily oatmeal), so most of my carbs come from fruits and veggies.
onesong onesong 9 years
i have always lost weight when i have watched my carb intake and boosted my consumption of beans, nuts, and dark legumes. i try to stay low carb as much as possible, but that doesn't mean i won't eat a piece of cake or have my hamburger on a bun. the key is to do everything in moderation.
Francoisehardly Francoisehardly 9 years
Me too actually, at least when it comes to things that aren't actually diets, but ways of eating.
SillyGirl SillyGirl 9 years
I agree - I am all about the Mediterranean way of life (and semi-veg). Veggies, fruits, whole grains, beans and occasional seafood (and wine!) is my lifestyle (hate the word diet).
Francoisehardly Francoisehardly 9 years
I find that interesting too, but how valid is this when it's not the usual Atkins? And it doesn't work as something long term regardless. The mediterranean "diet" is something someone can continue past a certain amount of time. I'll stick to being a vegetarian anyway.
SillyGirl SillyGirl 9 years
I think its interesting that in the "atkins" plan people were on "Participants were to obtain fat and protein mostly from vegetarian sources and avoid trans fat." This is actually somewhat counter to the original atkins plan from what i remember which encouraged red, white, etc meat. Sounds more south beach than atkins. I always thought atkins was lacking slightly in nutrients and fiber.
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