Dieters try their hardest to avoid it, product manufacturers try to take it out of foods, and yet, on the whole, Americans consume entirely too much of it. In the battle of the bulge, fat has always been a very bad word. Recent research shows, however, that a moderate-fat diet, such as the Mediterranean diet—as opposed to strict low-fat diet—may result in more long-term weight loss.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health in Boston asked 101 men and women to consume either 35 percent calories from fat (moderate-fat diet) or 20 percent calories from fat (low-fat diet).

After 18 months, 31 of 50 original subjects were still adhering to the moderate-fat diet and had decreased weight by nine pounds, body mass index (BMI) by 1.6 kilograms per meters squared (kg/m2) and waist circumference by 6.9 centimeters (cm). In comparison, the low-fat group had increased weight by more than 6 pounds, BMI by 1.4 kg/m2 and waist circumference by 2.6 cm. In addition, only 20 percent of the low-fat dieters were participating in the diet after 18 months, while 54 percent of the moderate-fat dieters were still following the eating plan. When researchers measured subjects six months into the study, both groups had lost about the same amount of weight.

The Mediterranean diet allows moderate levels of fats high in HDL (“good”) cholesterol, such as olive oil and nuts. For a graphic of the “Mediterranean Diet Pyramid,” see IDEA Health & Fitness Source (February 2002, p. 53). This research was originally published in the International Journal of Obesity (October 2001).

IDEA PERSONAL Trainer March 2002