Avocados may be a powerful weapon for women in the fight against dangerous belly fat, according to a new study. The researchers have found that an avocado a day helps women redistribute belly fat toward a healthier profile.
In a randomized controlled trial, 105 overweight or obese adults were provided one meal a day for 12 weeks. The experts discovered that women who consumed avocado as part of their daily meal had a reduction in deeper visceral abdominal fat.
The study was led by Naiman Khan, a professor of Kinesiology and Community Health at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
“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,” said Professor Khan.
“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.”
The participants were divided into two groups. One group received meals which contained fresh avocado, while the other group received meals with nearly identical ingredients and similar calories but no avocado.
The researchers measured participants’ abdominal fat and their glucose tolerance, a measure of metabolism and a marker of diabetes, at the beginning and end of the 12 weeks.
The results showed that female participants who consumed an avocado a day as part of their meal had a reduction in visceral abdominal fat. These women also exhibited a reduction in the ratio of visceral fat to subcutaneous fat, indicating a redistribution of fat away from the organs. Among males, there was no change in fat distribution. Glucose tolerance was not improved in either gender.
“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,” explained Professor Khan.
“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 said they hope to conduct a follow-up study that would provide participants with all 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 determine whether the difference remains between the two sexes.
“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 Professor Richard Mackenzie of the University of Roehampton in London.
“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.”
The study is published in the Journal of Nutrition.