The study, published in Nature’s journal Obesity, found that for every 10-gram increase in soluble fibre eaten per day, deep belly visceral fat, known to be more dangerous than subcutaneous found near the skin, was reduced by 3.7 per cent over five years.
In addition, the authors reported that increased moderate activity resulted in a 7.4 per cent decrease in the rate of visceral fat accumulation over the same time.
“Our study is valuable because it provides specific information on how dietary fibre, especially soluble fibre, may affect weight accumulation through abdominal fat deposits,” said Dr Kristen Hairston, assistant professor of internal medicine at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Centre, USA.
“Making a few simple changes can have a big health impact,” added Hairston, who led the research study.
In the longitudinal study, Hairston and her team examined whether lifestyle factors, including diet and frequency of exercise, were associated with a five-year change in abdominal fat of African Americans and Hispanic Americans – populations who are at a disproportionally higher risk for developing high blood pressure and diabetes and accumulating visceral fat.
The researchers reported that intake of dietary soluble fibre was associated with a decreased rate of visceral fat, but not subcutaneous fat, accumulation.
“Results from the current study reveal that increased consumption of soluble fibre led to a decreased rate of visceral adipose tissue accumulation, suggesting that increased soluble fibre intake may be instrumental in slowing this natural progression,” said the researchers.
Hairston said that her research team’s next study, expected to be in clinical trials later this summer, will examine whether increasing soluble fibre, with a widely available fibre supplement, will produce similar results to those obtained with soluble fibre from food.
Hairston and her colleagues noted that central obesity has been associated with hypertension, blood lipid imbalances, insulin resistance, fatty liver disease, and type-2 diabetes.
“Studies indicate a direct relationship between levels of visceral adipose tissue and future risk of impaired glucose tolerance and type 2 diabetes,” they added.
“We [also] know that a higher rate of visceral fat is associated with high blood pressure, diabetes and fatty liver disease,” said Dr Hairston,
The researchers noted that increasing dietary fibre has been suggested to help fight weight gain, with many previous studies suggesting a link between fibre intake and levels of obesity.
“Although the fibre-obesity relationship has been extensively studied, the relationship between fibre and specific fat deposits has not,” said Hairston
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1038/oby.2011.171
“Lifestyle Factors and 5-Year Abdominal Fat Accumulation in a Minority Cohort: The IRAS Family Study”
Authors: K.G. Hairston, M.Z. Vitolins, J.M. Norris, A.M. Anderson, A.J. Hanley, L.E. Wagenknecht