Moderate Exercise, Mediterranean Diet Better at Reducing Fat Deposits

New research underscores the fact that a healthy weight involves more than body mass: it also includes how the fat is distributed within the body.

Dec. 4, 2017
By Mary West

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All weight-loss eat­ing plans don’t offer the same ben­e­fits in reduc­ing harm­ful fat deposits in the abdomen called vis­ceral fat. A study referred to as Central MRI com­pared the effects on the dis­tri­b­u­tion of body fat of the Mediterranean/Low Carb (Med/LC) diet and a low-fat diet with and with­out exer­cise. It found the for­mer diet in com­bi­na­tion with mod­er­ate work­outs proved superior.

Moderate, but per­sis­tent, weight loss may have dra­matic ben­e­fi­cial effects on fat deposits related to dia­betes and car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­eases.- Felipe Cruz, Olave

Weighing patients or using blood tests to detect changes, has­n’t, until now, given us accu­rate pic­tures, lit­er­ally, of how dif­fer­ent fat deposits are impacted dis­pro­por­tion­ately by diet and exer­cise,” said lead author Iris Shai. 

These find­ings sug­gest that mod­er­ate exer­cise com­bined with a Mediterranean/low carb diet may help reduce the amount of some fat deposits even if you don’t lose sig­nif­i­cant weight as part of the effort.” 

In the 18-month clin­i­cal trial, Shai and her team assessed how lifestyle strate­gies affected fat deposits in a group of seden­tary adults who were mod­er­ately over­weight to obese. Each par­tic­i­pant was ran­domly assigned either a Med/LC diet aug­mented with 28 grams of wal­nuts per day or an iso-caloric low-fat diet. The indi­vid­u­als were also ran­domly asked to engage or not to engage in a mod­er­ate exer­cise pro­gram. Data was col­lected from an exten­sive quan­tity of whole-body MRI scans. 

The results showed that even with only mod­er­ate weight loss, the Med/LC diet proved sig­nif­i­cantly more effec­tive than a low-fat diet in reduc­ing fat stor­age in espe­cially unhealth­ful areas. Combining the exer­cise pro­gram with the diet decreased fat deposits 29 per­cent around the liver, 22 per­cent in the abdomen, and 11 per­cent around the heart. 

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Conversely, fat stor­age in the kid­ney, neck and mus­cles of the thigh were changed only by weight loss. The type of diet con­sumed wasn’t a deter­min­ing factor. 

Reductions in fat stor­age were asso­ci­ated with pos­i­tive health effects. Decreases in liver and abdom­i­nal fat were inde­pen­dently linked to an improved lipid pro­file, while decreases in abdom­i­nal fat improved sen­si­tiv­ity to insulin, a hor­mone that reg­u­lates blood sugar. 

We learned in this trial that mod­er­ate, but per­sis­tent, weight loss may have dra­matic ben­e­fi­cial effects on fat deposits related to dia­betes and car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­eases,” explained Shai. A Mediterranean diet, rich in unsat­u­rated fats and low in car­bo­hy­drates, was a more effec­tive strat­egy than an iso-caloric low-fat diet to dra­mat­i­cally reverse mor­bid fat stor­age sites.” 

In an inter­view with Olive Oil Times, Carolyn Dean, med­ical doc­tor, natur­opath and med­ical advi­sory board mem­ber of the Nutritional Magnesium Association, warned that abdom­i­nal fat adversely affects well­ness in diverse ways. 

Abdominal fat accu­mu­la­tion poses a dan­ger to health because it dri­ves chronic inflam­ma­tion in the body, which has proven to be asso­ci­ated with car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease, dia­betes, can­cer, stroke, demen­tia and depres­sion. This type of fat is toxic and can inter­fere with nor­mal hor­monal func­tions such as appetite, weight, mood and brain func­tion,” she said. 

Shai con­cluded that the health ben­e­fits result­ing from an exer­cise pro­gram together with an improve­ment in nutri­tion qual­ity aren’t reflected by a reduc­tion in body weight alone. The study was pub­lished in the jour­nal Circulation.



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