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Obesity rates increased dramatically in Southern European countries such as Spain and Italy over the last 10 years. At the same time, fewer people followed the traditional Mediterranean diet low in fatty meats and high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and olive oil.
Spanish researchers studied nearly 30,000 nonobese men end women for three years. Nearly 8 percent of women and 7 percent of men were obese and 14 percent of men and 23 percent of women were overweight at the end of the study. Overweight people who followed the Mediterranean diet were less likely to become obese. Adherence to the diet wasn't a good predictor of becoming overweight in people who were lean at the beginning of the study.