The latest nutritional fad is the Flat Belly Diet and the concept of “Belly Flattening Foods.”
Recently there has been a lot of buzz about something called the Flat Belly Diet that features foods that are purported to be able to burn belly fat. This belly fat – aka visceral fat – resides within abdominal cavity and can surround and impact the function of internal organs, which makes belly fat potentially more dangerous than subcutaneous fat. Subcutaneous fat is what makes up the good old “flat tire” or “beer belly” that most people are familiar with.
The Flat Belly Diet was developed in response to a study done in Spain where 11 overweight people who were offspring of diabetics were fed 3 different diets consisting of the same amount of calories each with a different mixture of carbohydrates and fats. One diet was high in carbohydrates, one diet was high in saturated fats and one diet was high in monounsaturated fats. People spend 4-weeks on each diet.
According to Prevention Magazine the promoters of the Flat Belly Diet, researchers found that the people who ate the diet high in monounsaturated fats lost more weight without added exercise. However, in reading conclusions published in the actual study, this assertion is questionable. Here’s what the study says, “RESULTS— Weight, body composition, and resting energy expenditure remained unchanged during the three sequential dietary periods.”
And while the Flat Belly Diet states that a diet high in monounsaturated fats reduces weight and visceral fat, here is what’s published in the study. “Using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry we observed that when patients were fed a CHO-enriched diet (carbohydrates), their fat mass was redistributed toward the abdominal depot, whereas periphery fat accumulation decreased compared with isocaloric MUFA-rich (monounsaturated fats) and high-SAT (saturated fats) diets.”
What this means – despite the propaganda spread by the Flat Belly Diet – is that the monounsaturated and saturated fat diets resulted in less “belly fat” accumulation than did the high carb diets. The researchers also clearly state that weight and body fat percentage were unchanged as a result of all three diet interventions.
Here is the conclusion as published in the study, “CONCLUSIONS— An isocaloric MUFA-rich diet prevents central fat redistribution and the postprandial decrease in peripheral adiponectin gene expression and insulin resistance induced by a CHO-rich diet in insulin-resistant subjects.”
So despite the assertions made by the proponents of the Flat Belly Diet, eating a diet high in monounsaturated fats had no impact on weight or body fat percentage, and a diet high in saturated fats was just as effective as the monounsaturated diet in preventing visceral – belly – fat from accumulating. And these results were found in people who were overweight and the offspring of diabetes patients. Hardly a slam-dunk.
The inclusion of certain kinds of foods in this reduced calorie eating program doesn’t change the fact that the Flat Belly Diet is just the latest edition of an externally regulated, restrained eating program, just another gimmick that employs tired, old, misguided bromides like, “Eat and think your way thin.”
I have a hard time believing the hype that surrounds the Flat Belly Diet given the way these results have been misrepresented. As a result, the Flat Belly Diet should be viewed as just another diet, a diet – like all the rest – that’s not worth getting too excited about.