For people wondering which between the vegetarian and Mediterranean diet was better in preventing heart diseases, Italian researchers have a surprising answer: both.

The Mediterranean diet is rich in olive oil, vegetables and fish, while a vegetarian diet mainly abstains from from meat or by-products of animal slaughter. It is important to note that there are several kinds of vegetarian diet.

Both can be good for the heart though they differ in ways, according to researchers from the University of Florence and Careggi University Hospital.

“The take-home message of our study is that a low-calorie vegetarian diet can help patients reduce cardiovascular risk about the same as a low-calorie Mediterranean diet,” said the study authors.

In the study, the researchers included 107 overweight participants with a mean age of 51. All the participants have a low to moderate risk of heart disease. The researchers grouped the participants to either follow a Mediterranean diet or vegetarian diet for a period of three months.

“Both VD and MD were effective in reducing body weight, body mass index, and fat mass, with no significant differences between them. However, VD was more effective in reducing low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels, whereas MD led to a greater reduction in trigylceride levels,” the authors pointed out.

Those following VD lost 4.2lbs (1.9kg), while those who followed MD lost 3.9lbs (1.8kg) after a period of three months. Both the diets could be limiting the participants’ intake of saturated fats.

“We were able to show that if a person follows for three months...either a lacto-ovo or a Mediterranean diet, they are both beneficial for reducing cardiovascular risk factors,” said study author Francesca Sofi, as quoted from TIME.

“We have now two options in terms of the prevention of cardiovascular and also other diseases... they are both quite equally beneficial,” concluded Sofi.

The study was published in the journal Circulation. MIMS