There’s no shortage of studies backing the Mediterranean diet—it offers many potential health benefits, like improved blood sugar control, better cardiovascular outcomes (like lower blood pressure and cholesterol), and can help maintain healthy inflammatory response. But adding the keto angle may take things up a notch.
In a 2021 study, researchers compared the outcome of following a keto diet versus a Mediterranean diet for 12 weeks in 33 people. While both plans resulted in a similar rate of adherence, the participants on the keto diet experienced better glucose control and a more significant decrease in triglycerides and LDL levels. They also lost more weight, on average.
In another 2021 study published in Nutrients, researchers set out to compare a Mediterranean diet with a low-carbohydrate diet. They divided 36 participants into two groups—one group followed a traditional Mediterranean diet, while the other followed a low-carb (but not quite keto) nutrition plan with the same amount of calories.
While both groups experienced health benefits, like improved insulin sensitivity, the low-carbohydrate group lost about 60% more weight, on average.
Years ago, researchers also looked at an unlimited-calorie Mediterranean keto diet, specifically, and found that it can promote weight loss, normalize blood pressure, and reduce total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides in individuals with obesity. It can also raise HDL, or “good,” cholesterol.
A 2011 study showed similar results, although it’s worth noting that participants in this study also took plant-based herbal extracts daily (like mint, guarana, and ginseng, to name a few) to increase their overall phytonutrient intake and leverage functional botanical bioactives.
While there are potential benefits to both the Mediterranean diet and the keto diet, there is very limited research on the combined effects of this diet, with all the studies mentioned previously lasting for only short periods of time with a small number of people.
Aside from the physical health benefits, the Mediterranean keto diet is also a bit more flexible than a traditional keto diet. Because there’s no focus on strict macro counting, many people find it easier to adhere to long term than a traditional keto diet. It’s also more adaptable to other diet preferences, like vegetarian or vegan plans.
But like any new diet plan, there may be an adjustment period when you’re first starting out. If you’re coming from a really high-carbohydrate diet, you may experience some signs of carbohydrate withdrawal.
The most common signs of carbohydrate withdrawal are headaches, impacts on digestion regularity, bad breath, muscle cramps, muscle weakness, and lightheadedness. These issues usually resolve on their own within two weeks of starting a low-carb diet, during which time you may notice an ease in bloating and fewer sugar cravings. However, if these unpleasant side effects persist, reach out to a health professional for support.