Eating a higher-quality diet may lead to a more favorable body fat distribution, says Gertraud Maskarinec, MD, PhD, an epidemiologist at the University of Hawaii Cancer Center, who recently coauthored a study on the topic published in the journal Obesity. “That’s important because internal (visceral abdominal/belly and liver) fat appears to be a stronger risk factor for chronic diseases than body fat located directly under our skin,” she says.
The scientists looked at food intake data reported at the start of the study by a multiethnic group of about 2,000 US adults (average age, 48). After 20 years of follow-up, a second diet survey was completed, and fat distribution was checked via scanning (DXA and MRI). People with the best (highest) diet quality scores on both surveys were 48% less likely to have high belly fat storage, and they were 45% less likely to have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease than those with the lowest diet quality scores (after adjusting for DXA-based total body fat).
Diets were scored as higher quality if they emphasized foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, fish, vegetable oils and whole grains, while limiting red/processed meats, refined grains, sugar-sweetened beverages, fruit juice and sodium.
To learn more: Obesity, August 2017