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Children who eat a diet similar to the Mediterranean diet are 15% less likely to be overweight or obese than children who don’t, researchers reported at the 2014 European Congress on Obesity.
Researchers from 8 countries (Sweden, Germany, Spain, Italy, Cyprus, Belgium, Estonia, and Hungary) measured height, weight, waist circumference, and percent body fat mass in children from those countries. The children’s parents completed a questionnaire prepared for the IDEFICS study (Identification and prevention of Dietary-and lifestyle-induced health Effects In Children and infantS) about how often their children ate 43 foods.
To evaluate how closely the children followed a Mediterranean-like diet, the researchers assigned 1 point for high consumption of each food group typical of the diet (vegetables, fruit and nuts, fish, and cereal grains) and 1 point for low consumption of foods not characteristic of the diet (dairy products and meat, for example).
High-scoring children were 15% less likely to be overweight or obese and 10% to 15% less likely to experience major increases in body mass index, waist circumference, and body fat than low-scoring children. The findings were independent of age, sex, socioeconomic status, or country of residence.
Swedish children scored highest, followed by Italian children; children from Cyprus posted the lowest scores.
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