BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – A 2019 study by The New England Journal of Medicine estimated that within ten years, more than half of the U.S. population would be more than 100 lbs. overweight if the nation did not collectively adopt healthier eating habits.
In Louisiana, a 2021 survey indicated that nearly 38% of the state’s population fell into the category of ‘obese,’ which is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher.
Many are attempting to fight obesity by implementing new exercise and diet routines into their daily lives.
The Mediterranean diet and the Keto Diet have become increasingly popular in the past few years. But what exactly are these diets? And does one outshine the other in regards to health and wellness results?
An analysis of the Mediterranean diet
The Mediterranean diet emphasizes loading up on fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
Inspired by the eating habits of people who live near the Mediterranean Sea, it encourages meals that consist of mostly plant-based foods and moderate amounts of lean poultry, fish, seafood, dairy, and eggs.
Fish is the star protein of this style of eating and water is the main beverage.
While the Mediterranean diet is not strict, it doesn’t encourage large quantities of processed red meats, heavily processed foods, frozen meals packed with sodium, refined grains, alcohol (other than red wine), butter, or processed/hydrogenated oils.
Most health experts agree that it is a balanced and nutritious way of eating that is effective in reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases and overall mortality.
That said, some have noticed that people in lower socioeconomic brackets had more difficulty sourcing healthy foods encouraged by the Mediterranean diet. Those who live in U.S. “food deserts,” for example may not be able to find decent olive oil or fresh foods to eat on a daily basis.
So, while the diet is healthy and considered one of the best ways to eat, it can be difficult to achieve for someone who’s living in poverty.
An analysis of the Keto diet
People who implement the Keto diet typically lose weight very quickly by putting their bodies into ketosis, which is a state in which the body begins to burn stored fat as fuel.
To reach ketosis, carbohydrates are cut to about 20 to 50 grams a day, which is not much at all and takes a good bit of discipline to keep up.
The keto diet also nixes any grains, legumes, and fruits other than berries.
According to Harvard Health, this diet essentially forces the body to use a different type of fuel. Instead of relying on sugar from carbohydrates, the body depends on ketones, which are a type of fuel that the liver produces from stored fat.
Some health experts warn that people with kidney and liver problems may worsen their condition by going on a keto diet.
Concerns have also been raised in regards to the keto meal plan’s focus on fat consumption -a diet that uses fat for as much as 90% of daily calories- and its possible link to an increase in bad cholesterol.
After a comparison study between the Keto diet and the Meditteranean diet was conducted, Dr. Frank Hu, chair of the department of nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health told CNN, “The keto diet significantly increased LDL cholesterol by 10%, while the Mediterranean diet decreased LDL cholesterol by 5%. The difference between the two diets is quite large, and this may have long-term consequences on cardiovascular disease.”
Basically, though both diets reduced triglycerides, the keto diet’s seeming triggering of a rise in bad cholesterol was an area of concern.
Kathy McManus, a registered dietician and director of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital summed up her thoughts on the Keto diet in a quote to Harvard Health, saying, “The keto diet is primarily used to help reduce the frequency of epileptic seizures in children. While it also has been tried for weight loss, only short-term results have been studied, and the results have been mixed. We don’t know if it works in the long term, nor whether it’s safe.”
Choosing the right diet for your health needs
In summing up his thoughts on a comparison of the Keto and Mediterranian diets, Dr. Hu said, “The No. 1 take-home message for me is that severe restriction of some healthy carbohydrates is not necessary to improve glycemic control and cardio metabolic health. You can do a healthy Mediterranean diet or a moderate low-carbohydrate diet or a very healthy vegetarian diet. There are different options for people with different food preferences.”
Essentially, any balanced diet that a person can maintain for years is more effective than a way of eating that results in quick weight loss but may not be manageable in the long term.
According to the Mayo Clinic, before deciding on a diet it’s best to talk to your physician and then personally answer the questions below:
- What’s involved? Is this diet something I can personally adapt to my lifestyle? Does it require buying special meals?
- What’s behind the diet? Is there research and science to back up this approach to eating?
- What are the risks? Could the diet harm my health? Are the recommendations safe for me and any health conditions I have? Will it have any impact on the medications I take?
- What are the results? How much weight can I expect to lose? Does the program claim that I’ll lose a lot of weight quickly or that I can target certain areas of my body? Does it show before and after photos that seem too good to be true?
Click here for additional information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about how to make healthy choices when it comes to food.