Do You Need to Eat Fat to Lose Belly Fat?

Lisa Nelson Health Pro
  • I enjoy the show The Biggest Loser.  On one of the episodes this season 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.  Hence, the reason for this article!


    The Mediterranean diet contains an increased level of monounsaturated fat compared to the typical American diet.  Monounsaturated fat is a type of heart healthy unsaturated fat.  One of the best monounsaturated fat sources is olive oil.


    I went to work researching to find scientific evidence to support a link between a diet high in monounsaturated fat and reduced belly fat.

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    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.


    There have been many studies conducted on this theory, but the results are all conflicting. 


    Expert Opinion


    1. Not enough evidence to support a connection.


    This as 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 reduced their risk of a second heart attack and other complications.


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    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.


    So, if you adopt this style of eating now and some conclusive evidence comes out in the future supporting a link with decreased belly fat, it won't matter.  You'll already be lean with a healthy heart!


    I'd love to have you sign up for The Heart of Health ezine where I share practical tips to lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and lose weight.  When you sign up you'll receive the free report Stop Wasting Money - Take Control of Your Health.

Published On: April 01, 2009