A new study observed improvements in body composition, fat distribution and metabolic health in response to an eight-week, very low-carbohydrate diet.
Older adults with obesity are at particularly high risk of developing cardiometabolic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Rather than total fat mass, deposition of fat in certain areas, such as the abdominal cavity and skeletal muscle, may confer this greatest risk of disease development.
The study by a team of researchers led by Amy Goss, assistant professor with University of Alabama at Birmingham’s (UAB) Department of Nutrition Sciences, has been published in Nutrition and Metabolism.
The research aimed to determine if a very low-carbohydrate, or VLCD, high-fat diet would deplete these fat depots and preserve lean mass without intentional caloric restriction in older adults with obesity, thereby improving outcomes related to cardiometabolic disease, such as insulin sensitivity and the lipid profile.
“After the eight-week intervention, despite the recommendation to consume a weight-maintaining diet, the group consuming the very low-carbohydrate diet lost more weight and total fat mass than the control diet group,” Goss said.
Egg consumption was an important part of the VLCD prescription. Goss and her team provided eggs to the participants in this diet group and asked them to consume at least three per day.
“While eggs were a part of this study, we can’t conclude that our findings are a result of daily egg consumption; but I think what we can conclude is that whole eggs can be incorporated into the diet in a healthful way without adversely impacting blood cholesterol in older adults,” she said.The primary difference in fat lost between the two groups was from the abdominal cavity and the skeletal muscle depots.
“We also found significant improvements in the overall lipid profile that would reflect decreased risk of cardiovascular disease,” Goss said. “Further, insulin sensitivity improved in response to the very low-carbohydrate diet reflecting reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes. Overall, we observed improvements in body composition, fat distribution and metabolic health in response to an eight-week, very low-carbohydrate diet.”VLCD effect on diabetes
Goss says VLCDs are a therapeutic option for many conditions, including Type 2 diabetes, obesity and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
“This study extends previous research to show that it can be a safe, therapeutic option for older adults in their 70s experiencing obesity,” she said. “This is the first study to demonstrate depletion of ‘metabolically harmful’ fat depots.