A newly published Swedish study set out to determine whether what we eat or what we weigh is the bigger issue for our health in later life.
It looked at the link between people’s BMI (calculated from weight and height), how closely they stick to a ‘Mediterranean-like diet’ and their risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
The participants were two big cohorts — a male and a female one, average age 61 — who’ve been surveyed about their lifestyle for over 20 years.
As you’ve probably heard before, it’s not easy to pinpoint exactly what constitutes a Mediterranean diet.
This research split it into eight components. The first six were intake of: fruit and veg, legumes and nuts, high-fibre grains, fermented dairy, fish, and olive oil or rapeseed (canola) oil. More was considered good. The other two were red and processed meat, and alcohol. Preferably not too much of those.
While I’m not onboard with putting canola and olive oil or red and processed meat together as though they’re the same, that’s another story.
An issue with these big surveys is that when we ask human beings how tall and heavy they are, and what they eat, everyone is taller, slimmer and a healthier eater than they are in reality.
Still, they capture trends.
This study found that obese people who follow a Mediterranean-style diet have less risk of dying from cardiovascular disease than they otherwise would.
They also come out ahead of slimmer people who don’t follow those principles.
The conclusion was that Mediterranean-style eating has a protective benefit that, to an extent, offsets excess weight. Not entirely, but it certainly helps.
As we get older it doesn’t pay to be too fat or too thin, but there’s merit in focusing on a healthy diet rather than weight alone.
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