A new study in Obesity investigated the impact of diet quality in mid-to-late-adulthood on visceral and liver fat not solely relying on Body Mass Index (BMI). Four different measures of diet quality were used to evaluate dietary intake of the multiethnic population over a twenty-year span. Maintaining a high quality diet during mid-to-late adulthood may prevent adverse metabolic consequences related to visceral adipose tissue (VAT) and non-alcoholic fatty liver (NAFL).
The study examined close to 2,000 participants of the Multiethnic Cohort living in Hawaii and Los Angeles from five ethnic groups (White, African American, Native Hawaiian, Japanese American and Latino). The participants completed food frequency questionnaires at cohort entry from 1993-96 and at clinic visits in 2013-2016. Participants also underwent whole-body DXA and abdominal MRI scans. All four science-based diet quality scores predicted lower VAT and NAFL. Individuals with the best (highest) diet quality scores were 35-59% less likely to have high VAT and were also 22-43% less likely to have NAFL than those with the lowest scores after accounting for total body fat.
A long term healthy, quality diet can reduce the risk of cardiometabolic conditions. Gertraud Maskarinec, MD, PhD, Professor of Epidemiology at University of Hawaii Cancer Center said, "The message that diet quality, not just quantity, matters is important for everyone who wants to maintain both a healthy body weight and a healthy metabolism."
TOS Spokesperson Catherine M. Champagne, PhD, RDN, LDN, FADA, FAND, FTOS, Professor and Chief Nutritional Epidemiology/Dietary Assessment and Nutrition Counseling at Pennington Biomedical Research Center LSU said, "All healthcare providers should care about this research if their goal is to improve the health status of their patient population. There is benefit associated with both long term adherence to a healthy diet and to encouraging individuals with poor diets to adapt a healthier diet."
Overall, the management of excess body weight suggests that body fat distribution beyond BMI is a critical feature to consider when advising individuals with overweight about the health effects of their regular diets, as the metabolic consequences of visceral adiposity may lead to chronic conditions.