Topic summary contributed by volunteer(s): Charlie
Abdominal fat is the kind of body fat that may most increases our risk of dying prematurely, making waist-to-height ratio a better predictor of disease than body mass index. Those eating plant-based diets may have a faster metabolism and burn more calories. When activated by cold temperatures or eating arginine-rich or spicy foods, brown adipose tissue may burn body fat. Given otherwise comparable diets, the protein in soy may cause abdominal fat to shrink 10-15 square centimeters, whereas the protein in milk may cause abdominal fat to increase 20-40 square centimeters. Soy appears to prevent human fat cells from taking up fat, and turmeric is also thought to have this effect on fat cells. Bean consumption has also been associated with lower body weights and smaller waist circumferences in adults. Eating grapefruit may lead to weight loss, and drinking water before each meal could have the same effect. Dried fruits and nuts do not appear to lead to weight gain despite their caloric density and eating frequency does not seem to have an impact on health and weight. Cocoa itself (like in cocoa powder) does not cause weight gain, but the sugar and fat added to chocolate may lead to weight gain. Smoothies can be just as filling as eating whole fruits and vegetables (and leading to less caloric intake overall) as long as we drink them slowly. Conversely, meat has been associated with higher weight gain, even after controlling for calories, and may be specifically associated with abdominal obesity. It has been estimated that, on average, an inch is added onto the waist for every daily burger consumed over time. People consuming low calorie sweeteners such as those found in diet soda may overcompensate by eating more than they should, which can also lead to weight gain. Because a plant-based diet is associated with a lower body fat, it might also help reduce cellulite.
A virus has been discovered that actually causes obesity in chickens. Such viruses may even be a contributing factor in human obesity by increasing the number and size of fat cells. Chicken meat today contains ten times more fat per serving compared to chicken meat a hundred years ago, This could help explain why chicken has been tied to human abdominal girth.
Dioxins are toxic waste pollutants that accumulate in the fatty tissues of food animals consumed by humans. PCBs (found in fish oil) have been found to induce inflammation that promotes obesity. Other chemical obesogens may also be contributing factors in the obesity epidemic, possibly through the disruption of our metabolism.
Image Credit: Flickr. This image has been modified.