BIRMINGHAM, Ala.—Reducing carbohydrate and fat intake may promote loss of deep belly fat, even with little or no change in weight, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The findings suggest even moderate reductions may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, stroke and coronary artery disease.
Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham conducted a study of 69 overweight people who did not have diabetes, but were at risk for it. Participants were placed on diets for two consecutive eight-week periods: first a weight-maintenance intervention, and then a weight-loss intervention.
Subjects received either a standard lower-fat diet or a diet with a modest reduction in carbohydrates but slightly higher in fat than the standard diet. The moderately carb-restricted diet consisted of 43 percent calories from carbohydrates and 39 percent calories from fat. The standard diet contained 55 percent of calories from carbohydrates and 27 percent from fat. Protein made up the other 18 percent of each diet.
After the weight-maintenance phase, subjects who consumed the moderately carb-restricted diet had 11 percent less deep abdominal fat than those who ate the standard diet. During the weight-loss phase, subjects on both diets lost weight; however, the moderately carb-restricted diet promoted a 4 percent greater loss of total body fat.
“For individuals willing to go on a weight-loss diet, a modest reduction in carbohydrate-containing foods may help them preferentially lose fat, rather than lean tissue," said lead researcher Barbara Gower, PhD, professor in the department of nutrition sciences at UAB. “The moderately reduced carbohydrate diet allows a variety of foods to meet personal preferences."