Researchers at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden have found that children eating a diet high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains are 15% less likely to be overweight or obese than those who didn’t.
These findings come from a large study conducted between 2006 and 2012 that assessed the problem of obesity in European children.
About 9000 children from Sweden, Germany, Spain, Italy, Cyprus, Belgium, Estonia and Hungary were involved, and investigators focused on the measurements of height, weight, waist circumference and body fat.
Surprisingly it was found that children in Sweden are the most likely to adhere to a Mediterranean-style diet, while those living in Cyprus are the least likely.
Numerous studies have highlighted a link between adults eating a Mediterranean-style diet and a decreased risk of stroke, heart attack and death from heart disease.
Lead researcher of the Swedish study, Gianluca Tognon wanted to know if children could also benefit.
“We wanted to know more about if children adhere to a Mediterranean-like diet, and if this pattern could protect [them] from obesity,” she said.
Although it is not completely clear how exactly the Mediterranean diet lowers the risk of being overweight and becoming obese, it is thought the high fibre contents of the foods play a role.
Tognon suggests that besides ensuring their kids eat fruits and vegetables, parents should also focus on encouraging “a higher consumption of nuts, legumes, fish and whole-grain cereals, which are also not so popular among children.”
Other foods that are promoted as part of a healthy Mediterranean lifestyle include spices, beans, olive oil and a wide range of herbs to flavour dishes.