INSIDER – As we age our bodies go through changes. We tend to lose muscle mass and gain belly fat, which can be a precursor to health problems such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
However, following a lower calorie Mediterranean diet and doing light exercise could prevent or delay these age-related changes, according to a study published on Wednesday in JAMA Network Open.
The study found that the participants, who were aged between 55 and 75 and were either overweight or obese, lost more body fat and less muscle over a three-year period if they ate a lower calorie Mediterranean diet and lightly exercised up to six days a week than those who didn’t.
Their body composition changed the most in the first year, but they had maintained most of the changes by the three-year mark, the study said.
As well as gaining a better fat-to-muscle ratio, they also lost visceral fat, which sits underneath the stomach muscles and wraps around the abdominal organs, and can lead to heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Participants lost a moderate amount of fat, but the authors called it “clinically meaningful.”
Participants who were given regular guidance by dietitians lost more fat
The study drew on data from an ongoing eight-year Spanish study involving 6,874 overweight or obese participants with metabolic syndrome, an umbrella term for patients with high blood pressure, high blood sugar, low DHL or “good” cholesterol, and excess fat around the waist.
Its aim is to test whether eating a Mediterranean diet can prevent cardiovascular disease.
The researchers measured the body composition of 1,521 people from the study at three different stages. The participants were randomly put into either an intervention or control group.
The intervention group ate a 30% reduced calorie Mediterranean diet, received guidance and support from dietitians three times a month, and were encouraged to limit their consumption of processed meats, butter, margarine, cream, sweetened beverages, added sugar, biscuits, and bread.
They were also told to walk for 45 minutes a day and exercise to improve their strength, flexibility, and balance …