A very popular fruit that is a frequent addition to salads and sandwiches seems to contribute to the redistribution of fat in the abdomen, according to new research.
According to a new study, published in the journal of Nutrition and led by Naiman Khan from the University of Illinois, an avocado a day may help women transfer belly fat toward a healthier profile.
One hundred and five adults who were overweight or obese participated in a 12-week randomised controlled experiment in which they received one meal per day. Women who consumed avocado on a daily basis saw a decrease in their deeper visceral abdomen fat.
“The goal wasn’t weight loss; we were interested in understanding what eating an avocado does to the way individuals store their body fat. The location of fat in the body plays an important role in health,” Khan said.
“In the abdomen, there are two kinds of fat: fat that accumulates right underneath the skin, called subcutaneous fat, and fat that accumulates deeper in the abdomen, known as visceral fat, that surrounds the internal organs. Individuals with a higher proportion of that deeper visceral fat tend to be at a higher risk of developing diabetes. So we were interested in determining whether the ratio of subcutaneous to visceral fat changed with avocado consumption,” he said.
Two groups of participants were formed. One group received meals that included a fresh avocado, while the other group received meals that were almost comparable in terms of ingredients and calories but lacked the avocado.
The researchers examined participants’ abdominal fat and glucose tolerance, a measure of metabolism and a marker of diabetes, at the beginning and end of the 12-week study.
Female participants who consumed an avocado as part of their daily meal exhibited a drop in visceral abdominal fat – the difficult-to-target fat linked with increased risk – as well as a reduction in the ratio of visceral fat to subcutaneous fat, indicating fat redistribution away from the organs. However, male fat distribution remained unchanged, and neither males nor females improved in glucose tolerance.
“While daily consumption of avocados did not change glucose tolerance, what we learned is that a dietary pattern that includes an avocado every day impacted the way individuals store body fat in a beneficial manner for their health, but the benefits were primarily in females,” Khan said.
“It’s important to demonstrate that dietary interventions can modulate fat distribution. Learning that the benefits were only evident in females tells us a little bit about the potential for sex playing a role in dietary intervention responses.”
The researchers hope to conduct a follow-up study in which they will provide participants with all of their daily meals and look at additional markers of gut health and physical health to get a more complete picture of the metabolic effects of avocado consumption and see if the difference between the sexes remains.
“Our research not only sheds a valuable light on benefits of daily avocado consumption on the different types of fat distribution across genders, it provides us with a foundation to conduct further work to understand the full impact avocados have on body fat and health,” said study co-author Richard Mackenzie.
“By taking our research further, we will be able to gain a clearer picture into which types of people would benefit most from incorporating avocados into their diets and deliver valuable data for health care advisers to provide patients with guidance on how to reduce fat storage and the potential dangers of diabetes,” Mackenzie said.
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