12 January - 20 June 2016

Dietary fat intake, physical activity and abdominal fat in adolescents

15 Jan 14

A study published in Clinical Nutrition by Labayen et al. has investigated the role played by dietary fat in the build-up of abdominal fat in adolescents.  Previous studies have suggested that high intensity exercise might prevent the accumulation of fat and subsequently obesity, noting that physical activity increases fat oxidation. The scientists recruited a sub-sample of 224 Spanish adolescents who participated in the HELENA- CSS, an EU funded project involving adolescents from 10 European cities.  To calculate energy and nutrient intake the participants reported 24 h dietary recall on two non–consecutive days within a period of 2 weeks.  Body weight, height and BMI were measured and physical activity was objectively assessed by accelerometry.   Labayen et al report that they found an association between the percentages of energy derived from fat intake and abdominal fat deposition, noting that this relationship was independent of physical activity, moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and vigorous physical activity (VPA).  Previous studies have found a positive correlation between saturated fat and obesity.  Labayen et al did not find any significant association however they did find a significant association between the energy from monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acid intake and both fat mass index/lean mass index ratio and abdominal adiposity.  The scientists observed that adolescents within the upper tertile of dietary fat intake (41.4% of dietary energy) had between 38% - 42% more adiposity deposition on three abdominal regions than adolescents within the lower tertile of the energy derived from fat intake (33.6%). Moreover, these associations were independent of total physical activity, MVPA and VPA.  Energy intake was lower in those adolescents with higher energy derived from fat intake which reinforces the idea that high fat intake specifically may contribute to overall and abdominal adiposity independently of energy intake.  The authors discuss possible mechanisms behind the effects, noting that findings from this study “showed that physical activity was positively associated with energy intake and that more physically active adolescents have higher energy intakes than less active adolescents with larger amounts of fat mass. One possible mechanism explaining this apparent paradox could be that those adolescents consuming high fat diets and with higher adiposity had lower resting energy expenditure and/or lower adaptive thermogenesis than leaner adolescents consuming non-high fat diets.”

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