Obesity and Metabolic and Cardiovascular Risk

It has long been noted that obesity influences both metabolic and cardiovascular risk. Moreover, data from a large number of studies suggest that the accumulation of abdominal and liver fat poses an even greater risk of metabolic dysfunction. Because of the many health-related consequences associated with abdominal and liver fat accumulation, it is important to better understand contributing dietary factors. Food groups instead of single nutrients in relation to abdominal and liver fat have not yet been studied.  Findings from a recent study conducted by Esther van Eekelen, MSc (Leiden University Medical Center) and colleagues and published in the February 2019 issue of the Journal of Nutrition, reveal that specific food groups may be more detrimental than others when it comes to the accumulation of abdominal and liver fat.

Data from 2304 persons, aged 45-65 years old, who participated in the population-based Netherlands Epidemiology of Obesity study, were analyzed. Magnetic resonance imaging was used to assess both abdominal and liver fat, and a food-frequency questionnaire served to estimate habitual intake of main food groups (dairy, meat, fish, fruits and vegetables, sweet snacks, and fats and oils). Subsequently, the researchers examined whether certain food groups were linked to the specific location of fat.

Diet and Abdominal Fat

Dietary intake of fruit and vegetables and plant-based fats and oils was associated with less abdominal fat, but intake of sweet snacks was associated with more liver fat.  In this study, dietary intake of meat was not associated with abdominal or liver fat. The results of this study suggest that differences in dietary habits can influence the accumulation of abdominal and liver fat, although these associations need to be confirmed in larger studies.  In addition, intervention studies may help to determine the extent to which dietary changes can reduce abdominal and liver fat accumulation, and subsequently help achieve healthier cardiometabolic profiles.

Reference van Eekelen E, Geelen A, Alssema M, Lamb HJ, de Roos, A, Rosendaal FR, de Mutsert R. Sweet Snacks Are Positively and Fruits and Vegetables Are Negatively Associated with Visceral or Liver Fat Content in Middle-Aged Men and Women. Journal of Nutrition. 2019; https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/nxy260