The Most Effective Diet for the Worst Kind of Fat
June 21, 2019
Forbes – A team of researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) led by Prof. Iris Shai, a member of BGU’s S. Daniel Abraham International Center for Health and Nutrition and School of Public Health, recently published a long-term study on the impact of Mediterranean and low-carb diet and exercise, measuring their impact with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to map body fat distribution.
For their study, the researchers used the results of full-body MRI scans of 278 obese participants, detailing their fat distribution before, during and after the 18-month trial period to analyze the effects of two specific diets on body fat distribution.
The study demonstrated that a low-carb Mediterranean diet had a more significant effect on reducing fat around the liver (hepatic fat), heart and pancreas, compared to low-fat diets with similar calorie counts, while overall weight loss between the diets revealed no significant difference.
“Reduction in liver fat is a better predictor of long-term health than reduction of visceral fat, which was previously believed to be the main predictor,” explains Prof. Shai. “The findings are a significant contributor to the emerging understanding that for many obese individuals, excess liver fat is not merely a sign of health risks associated with obesity, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes, but is likely also a cause.
“Healthy nutrition, while also maintaining consistent, moderate weight loss, has a much more dramatic impact on levels of body fat related to diabetes, heart disease and cardiovascular disease than we previously thought,” she adds.
The low-carb Mediterranean diet group featured a diet low in red meat, with moderate amounts of poultry and fish, along with fresh vegetables, legumes and healthy nuts.
The goal of the those in the low-fat diet group was to limit total fat intake to 30% of total calories, with no more than 10% saturated fat, less than 300 mg per day of cholesterol, and to increase dietary fiber. Participants were also instructed to eat whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes and to limit their consumption of extra fats, refined sugar and snacks with excess high fat.
Participants in the low-carb Mediterranean diet group demonstrated a significantly greater decrease in hepatic fat content (HFC) than those in the low-fat diet group, even after accounting for the differences in visceral fat loss noted on MRI scans.