Fat Diet Piles on
Pounds Around Organs
People who eat a diet high in saturated
fat, which is found in meat and butter, accumulate more fat around
the internal organs in the abdomen than those who consume healthier
polyunsaturated fats, according to new research.
Having a large amount of such "visceral
fat" is associated with increased risk of heart disease, high
blood pressure and diabetes, said Dr. Kerry Stewart, an associate
professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore,
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, according to Stewart.
"Our study would suggest that less
visceral fat is another reason," Stewart said.
The research was scheduled to be
presented Sunday in Chicago at the American College of Cardiology's
In the study, Stewart and colleagues
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
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, unlike fat that accumulates
just under the skin, is not visible. According to Stewart, men
tend to have more visceral fat than women, 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,
This study is part of a larger
one that is examining the effect of exercise on the heart health
of middle-aged and older people and will also assess the effects
of exercise on visceral fat levels.