I enjoy the show The Biggest Loser (well the current season is a little disappointing!). On one of the past episodes they had an individual from Prevention magazine share some tips based on the “Flat Belly” diet. I was very excited because it sounded like a link had been found between the Mediterranean diet and reduced abdominal obesity.
Here’s the main study supporting the connection between decreased abdominal obesity and monounsaturated fats.
Study: Published in the Diabetes Care back in 2007 by J.A. Paniagua, MD, PHD, A. Gallego de la Sacristana, MD, I. Romero, PHD, A. Vidal-Puig, MD, PHD, J.M. Latre, MD, PHD, E. Sanchez, MD, P. Perez-Martinez, MD, PHD, J. Lopez-Miranda, MD, PHD and F. Perez-Jimenez, MD, PHD
Monounsaturated Fat-Rich Diet Prevents Central Body Fat Distribution and Decreases Postprandial Adiponectin Expression Induced by a Carbohydrate-Rich Diet in Insulin-Resistant Subjects
The purpose of this study was to show that central obesity is linked with insulin resistance (when the body does not respond normally to insulin) and studied the effect of three different diets with the same level of calories on fat distribution, insulin sensitivity, and peripheral adiponectin (fat hormone) gene expression. The study included 11 individuals that were considered insulin resistant. Everyone in the study spent 28 days on each of the following diets: 1. diet enriched in saturated fat, 2. diet rich in monounsaturated fat, 3. diet rich in carbohydrates.
The study found weight, body composition, and metabolism unchanged during all three diets. On a high carbohydrate diet, fat tended to be redistributed to the abdominal area versus the high fat diets.
1. Not enough evidence to support a connection.
This was a fairly small study of only eleven individuals. A study on 62 women published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2004 did not find a link between a diet high in monounsaturated fat and changed body fat distribution. There needs to be more large scale studies that conclusively establish a link before we can jump on the bandwagon.
2. Follow a Mediterranean Diet anyway!
Whether or not a Mediterranean Diet targets belly fat or not, the benefits of this type of diet are well known when it comes to heart health and weight loss. Those that follow a Mediterranean Diet have a reduced risk of developing heart disease and dying from a heart attack. Even those that have survived a heart attack and lived to adopt the Mediterranean Diet significantly reduce their risk of a second heart attack and other complications.
Also, those that follow the Mediterranean diet have increased satiety (feelings of fullness) due to the adequate fat and fiber content. This means a decreased urge to overeat which promotes weight loss.