A modest reduction in consumption of carbohydrate-rich foods may promote loss of deep belly fat, even with little or no change in weight, a new study finds.
Results of the study were presented in Boston at The Endocrine Society's 93rd Annual Meeting.
When paired with weight loss, consumption of a moderately reduced carbohydrate diet can help achieve a reduction of total body fat, changes that could help reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease. Excess visceral fat raises the risk of these diseases. (Visceral fat is the type of deep fat that packs itself around the organs and secretes chemicals that increase the body's resistance to the hormone insulin and cause inflammation throughout the body.
The study was conducted in 69 overweight but healthy men and women. Subjects received food for two consecutive eight-week periods: first a weight maintenance intervention, and then a weight loss intervention, which cut the number of calories that each person ate by 1,000 each day.
Subjects received either a standard lower-fat diet or a diet with a modest reduction in carbs, but slightly higher in fat than the standard diet.
The moderately carb-restricted diet contained foods that had a relatively low glycemic index, a measure of how quickly the food raises blood glucose levels. This diet consisted of 43% calories from carbohydrates and 39% calories from fat.
The standard diet contained 55% of calories from carbohydrates and 27% from fat. Protein made up the other 18% of each diet.
At the beginning and end of each study phase, the researchers measured the subjects' fat deep inside the abdomen and their total body fat using computed tomography (CT) and dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scans.
After the weight maintenance phase, subjects who consumed the moderately carb-restricted diet had 11% less deep abdominal fat than those who ate the standard diet. However, when the researchers analyzed results by race, they found it was exclusive to whites. (Whites have more deep abdominal fat than Blacks even when matched for body weight or percent body fat.)
During the weight loss phase, subjects on both diets lost weight. However, the moderately carb-restricted diet promoted a 4% greater loss of total body fat.
The researchers say that for individuals willing to go on a weight-loss diet, a modest reduction in carbohydrate-containing foods may help them preferentially lose fat, rather than muscle tissue.
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