Snacking Associated With Abdominal Fat, Fatty Liver
Snacking on high-fat and high-sugar foods are independently associated with abdominal fat and fatty liver (hepatic steatosis), according to a recent study.
Researchers found that hypercaloric diet with frequent meals increases intrahepatic triglyceride content (IHTG) and fat around the waist, but increasing meal size did not.
Obesity has become a global concern, more than 200 million men and close to 300 million women were obese in 2008. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that 36 percent of adult Americans and 17 percent of children in the country are obese. Previous studies link obesity to the accumulation of abdominal fat and fat in the liver, making non-alcoholic fatty liver disease one of the most prevalent diseases of the liver.
“American children consume up to 27 percent of calories from high-fat and high-sugar snacks,” Dr. Mireille Serlie, lead author of the study, said in a statement. “Our study examines if high meal frequency, with snacking, compared to large meal consumption contributes to increased intrahepatic and abdominal fat.”
For the study, researchers collected data from 36 lean men who were randomized to a hypercaloric diet or a eucaloric control diet (balanced diet) for six weeks. The participants on the hypercaloric diet ate 3 main meals along with additional calories from high fat and/or high sugar drinks, with or in between meals, to increase meal size or meal frequency.
Researchers measured IHTG content and abdominal fat using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and insulin sensitivity before and after the diet.
They found that high calorie diets increased body mass index (BMI). Eating more frequent meals significantly increased IHTG, while larger sized meals did not. Researchers found that belly fat increased in the high fat/high sugar frequency group and in the high sugar-frequency group. A decrease in liver insulin sensitivity was found in the high fat/high sugar-frequency group.
“Our study provides the first evidence that eating more often, rather than consuming large meals, contributes to fatty liver independent of body weight gain,” Serlie said. “These findings suggest that by cutting down on snacking and encouraging three balanced meals each day over the long term may reduce the prevalence of [non-alcoholic fatty liver disease].”
The findings were recently published in Hepatology, a journal of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.
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