Seventy percent of adults living in the United States have overweight (BMI greater than 25) or obesity (BMI greater than 30), putting them at increased risk of metabolic disease. Extra fat stored around the body promotes inflammation and insulin resistance, but extra abdominal fat is particularly dangerous. Findings of a recent report suggest consuming foods rich in unsaturated fat and dietary fiber may improve fat distribution in females.
Fat stored in the lower body, called subcutaneous fat, is located just under the skin. Fat stored in the abdominal region, called visceral fat, is wrapped around the internal organs (e.g., the liver, pancreas, and intestines). Visceral fat interferes with lipid metabolism in the liver, promoting insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. A diet that includes avocados, which are rich in mono-unsaturated fats and dietary fiber, is associated with lower abdominal obesity.
The investigators recruited 105 adults between the ages of 25 and 45 years who had overweight or obesity. They assigned participants to receive meals with avocado (about one Hass avocado) or meals without avocado that were matched for calories and total fat. The two meals contained different amounts of saturated fat, unsaturated fat, and fiber. Participants consumed their assigned meals once per day for 12 weeks and were told not to change their diet in other ways. Participants completed an oral glucose tolerance test to measure insulin resistance and had their body composition measured using X-ray.
In females, avocado consumption decreased visceral adiposity and the ratio of visceral to subcutaneous fat, indicating an improvement in body fat distribution. Both males and females in the control group experienced a loss of subcutaneous fat and an increase in the ratio of visceral to subcutaneous fat, indicating a worsening of body composition over the 12 weeks. Avocado consumption had no effect on insulin resistance.
The authors concluded that avocado consumption improved body fat distribution in females, but had no effects on body fat distribution in males or on insulin resistance in either males or females.