People who eat a diet high in saturated fat, which is found in all animal foods like meat and dairy products, accumulate more fat around the internal organs in the abdomen than those who consume healthier polyunsaturated fats, according to research (April 2003) from the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.
Having a large amount of such "visceral fat" is associated with increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.
It's not clear if switching to a diet containing more unsaturated fats, like those found in vegetable oils, will reduce or prevent the accumulation of visceral fat.
However, there are many reasons to eat diets low in saturated fats, including lowering one's risk of heart disease and high cholesterol.
In the study, the scientists asked 84 people between 55 and 75 years of age to record their diet over a three-day period. The participants were nonsmokers who did not have heart disease or diabetes and lived a sedentary lifestyle. The researchers then performed abdominal scans to measure the amount of visceral fat, and measured the patients' waist circumference relative to their hip size.
The bigger the waistline in relationship to hip size -- those with potbellies, in other words -- were more likely to have high amounts of visceral fat padding organs.
And a diet higher in saturated fats with respect to unsaturated fats was associated with more visceral fat. Visceral fat, unlike fat that accumulates just under the skin, is not visible.
Men tend to have more visceral fat than women do, even though they might have the same amount of fat in the abdomen. This might partly explain why men develop heart disease at a younger age then women.
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