The effect of green Mediterranean diet on cardiometabolic risk; a randomised controlled trial

Heart. 2021 Jun 11;107(13):1054-1061. doi: 10.1136/heartjnl-2020-317802.


Background: A Mediterranean diet is favourable for cardiometabolic risk.

Objective: To examine the residual effect of a green Mediterranean diet, further enriched with green plant-based foods and lower meat intake, on cardiometabolic risk.

Methods: For the DIRECT-PLUS parallel, randomised clinical trial we assigned individuals with abdominal obesity/dyslipidaemia 1:1:1 into three diet groups: healthy dietary guidance (HDG), Mediterranean and green Mediterranean diet, all combined with physical activity. The Mediterranean diets were equally energy restricted and included 28 g/day walnuts. The green Mediterranean diet further included green tea (3-4 cups/day) and a Wolffia globosa (Mankai strain; 100 g/day frozen cubes) plant-based protein shake, which partially substituted animal protein. We examined the effect of the 6-month dietary induction weight loss phase on cardiometabolic state.

Results: Participants (n=294; age 51 years; body mass index 31.3 kg/m2; waist circumference 109.7 cm; 88% men; 10 year Framingham risk score 4.7%) had a 6-month retention rate of 98.3%. Both Mediterranean diets achieved similar weight loss ((green Mediterranean -6.2 kg; Mediterranean -5.4 kg) vs the HDG group -1.5 kg; p<0.001), but the green Mediterranean group had a greater reduction in waist circumference (-8.6 cm) than the Mediterranean (-6.8 cm; p=0.033) and HDG (-4.3 cm; p<0.001) groups. Stratification by gender showed that these differences were significant only among men. Within 6 months the green Mediterranean group achieved greater decrease in low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C; green Mediterranean -6.1 mg/dL (-3.7%), -2.3 (-0.8%), HDG -0.2 mg/dL (+1.8%); p=0.012 between extreme groups), diastolic blood pressure (green Mediterranean -7.2 mm Hg, Mediterranean -5.2 mm Hg, HDG -3.4 mm Hg; p=0.005 between extreme groups), and homeostatic model assessment for insulin resistance (green Mediterranean -0.77, Mediterranean -0.46, HDG -0.27; p=0.020 between extreme groups). The LDL-C/high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) ratio decline was greater in the green Mediterranean group (-0.38) than in the Mediterranean (-0.21; p=0.021) and HDG (-0.14; p<0.001) groups. High-sensitivity C-reactive protein reduction was greater in the green Mediterranean group (-0.52 mg/L) than in the Mediterranean (-0.24 mg/L; p=0.023) and HDG (-0.15 mg/L; p=0.044) groups. The green Mediterranean group achieved a better improvement (-3.7% absolute risk reduction) in the 10-year Framingham Risk Score (Mediterranean-2.3%; p=0.073, HDG-1.4%; p<0.001).

Conclusions: The green MED diet, supplemented with walnuts, green tea and Mankai and lower in meat/poultry, may amplify the beneficial cardiometabolic effects of Mediterranean diet.

Trial registration number: This study is registered under Identifier no NCT03020186.

Keywords: cardiac risk factors and prevention; metabolic syndrome; obesity.

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