A new study found that sugary beverages might be to blame for stubborn fat that won’t seem to go away. Researchers focused on ‘deep,’ or visceral fat accumulations among its study participants. This type of fat wraps around internal organs, affects hormone function, and may play a role in insulin resistance, according to the researchers. It is also associated with diabetes and heart disease.
1,003 middle-aged participants, 45 percent women and with a mean age of 45.3 years, were examined over a six-year period. Participants were categorized into four groups based on how many sugar-sweetened beverages they consumed on a regular basis: less than one serving per month, or non-consumers, one serving a month to less than one serving per week, one serving per week to one serving per day, and greater than one serving per day, or daily consumers.
Participants underwent computer tomography scans at the beginning and end of the study in order for researchers to accurately measure changes in visceral fat. Results from the study found that those who drank more sugar-sweetened beverages tended to have more visceral fat. Participants who never drank sugar-sweetened beverages or only drank them occasionally gained the least amount of body fat, on average of 40 cubic inches. In comparison, daily drinkers gained the most visceral fat, 52 cubic inches on average.
Researchers noted that overall, consumers of sugary drinks were predominantly male, younger, smokers, engaged in slightly more physical activity, and less likely to have diabetes. Though no association was found between diet soda and visceral fat increase, drinkers in this category were less likely to be engaged in physical activity, had higher BMIs, and a higher prevalence of diabetes in comparison to nondrinkers.
Dr. Caroline Fox, leader author of the study, says, “Our message to consumers is to follow the current dietary guidelines and to be mindful of how much sugar-sweetened beverages they drink.”