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The surprising results of a head-to-head study of Mediterranean, Paleo, and intermittent fasting

The surprising results of a head-to-head study of Mediterranean, Paleo, and intermittent fasting
[Photo: Micheile Henderson/Unsplash]

Most healthy eating plans work under perfect conditions. You just follow the guidelines, and then voila! A trimmer, healthier you!

Reality is not so kind. Two studies of real-world eaters shed light on which healthy eating strategies actually work in the real world.

  • Skip Paleo. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition followed 250 people for a year with minimal professional support, allowing them to opt into a Mediterranean food plan, intermittent fasting (two days a week of eating 500-600 calories), or a Paleo plan with a bit of dairy, legumes, and grains. At the end of a year, the Paleo plan had by far the lowest adherence, with just a third sticking to it, and the lowest weight loss, at 4.6 pounds. The Paleo eaters also showed no improvements in blood pressure or blood sugar levels.
  • Intermittent fasting works best. It’s maintainable: 54% of people were still fasting twice a week after a whole year, losing an average of 11.2 pounds, and showing lowered blood pressure.
  •  Mediterranean is also a smart choice. Take note: The Mediterranean eaters had the highest adherence rate, at 57%, and lost an average of 10.1 pounds, with improvements in both blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
  • You will not eat healthfully at a restaurant. A study in the Journal of Nutrition of 35,000 people over a 13-year period found that if you walk into a restaurant, your chances of adhering to your healthy eating plan are zero. Specifically, just 0.1% of restaurant meals were of ideal nutritional and dietary quality—and the 1 in 1,000 is probably not gonna be you. On average, Americans get over 20% of their calories from eating out.
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