The very-low-carb Spanish Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet cures metabolic syndrome, according to investigators at the University of Córdoba in Spain.
The metabolic syndrome is a collection of clinical factors that are linked to high risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Individual components of the syndrome include elevated blood sugar, high trigylcerides, low HDL cholesterol, high blood pressure, and abdominal fat accumulation.
Spanish researchers put 26 people with metabolic syndrome on the Spanish Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet for twelve weeks and monitored what happened. At baseline, average age was 41 and average body mass index was 36.6. Investigators didn’t say how many diabetics or prediabetics were included. No participant was taking medication.
What’s the Spanish Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet?
Calories are unlimited, but dieters are encouraged to keep carbohydrate consumption under 30 grams day. They eat fish, lean meat, eggs, chicken, cheese, green vegetables and salad, at least 30 ml (2 tbsp) daily of virgin olive oil, and 200-400 ml of red wine daily ( a cup or 8 fluid ounces equals 240 ml). On at least four days of the week, the primary protein food is fish. On those four days, you don’t eat meat, chicken, eggs, or cheese. On up to three days a week, you could eat non-fish protein foods but no fish on those days.
How’s this different from my Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet? The major differences are that mine includes one ounce (28 g) of nuts daily, less fish overall, and you can mix fish and non-fish protein foods every day.
Regular exercisers were excluded from participation, and my sense is that exercise during the diet trial was discouraged.
What Were the Results?
Metabolic syndrome resolved in all participants.
Three of the original 26 participants were dropped from analysis because they weren’t compliant with the diet. Another one was lost to follow-up. Final analysis was based on the 22 who completed the study.
Eight of the 22 participants had adverse effects. These were considered slight and mostly appeared and disappeared during the first week. Effects included weakness, headache, constipation, “sickness”, diarrhea, and insomnia.
Average weight dropped from 106 kg (233 lb) to 92 kg (202 lb).
Body mass index fell from 36.6 to 32.
Average fasting blood sugar fell from 119 mg/dl (6.6 mmol/l) to 92 mg/dl (5.1 mmol/l).
Triglycerides fell from 225 mg/dl to 110 mg/dl.
Average systolic blood pressure fell from 142 mmHg to 124.
Average diastolic blood pressure fell from 89 to 76.
A majority of people labeled with metabolic sydrome continue in metabolic sydrome for years. That’s because they don’t do anything effective to counteract it. These researchers show that it can be cured in 12 weeks, at least temporarily, with the Spanish Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet.
Very-low-carb diets are especially good at lowering trigylcerides, lowering blood sugar, and raising HDL cholesterol. Overweight dieters tend to lose more weight, and more quickly, than on other diets. Very-low-carb diets, therefore, should be particularly effective as an approach to metabolic syndrome. It’s quite possible that other very-low-carb diets, such as Atkins Induction Phase, would have performed just as well as the Spanish Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet. In fact, most effective reduced-calorie weight-loss diets would tend to improve metabolic syndrome, even curing some cases, regardless of carb content.
Most physicians recommend that people with metabolic syndrome either start or intensify an exercise program. The program at hand worked without exercise. I recommend regular exercise for postponing death and other reasons.
Will the dieters of this study still be cured of metabolic syndrome a year later? Unlikely. Most will go back to their old ways of eating, regaining the weight, and moving their blood sugars, triglycerides, and HDL cholesterols in the wrong direction.
Steve Parker, M.D.
Reference: Pérez-Guisado J, & Muñoz-Serrano A (2011). A Pilot Study of the Spanish Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet: An Effective Therapy for the Metabolic Syndrome. Journal of medicinal food PMID: 21612461