Kids Who Eat More Fat May Have More Belly Fat

Higher abdominal fat in kids correlated with higher fat diets and was not affected by physical activity

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Many people hit the gym when they want to decrease belly fat. More exercise, though, may not reduce belly fat in some kids.

A recent study found that, the more calories adolescents consumed from fat, the more abdominal fat they had. This was true even in physically active teens.

"Ask a nutritionist how you can balance your child's diet."

The study was written by Idoia Labayen, PhD, from the Department of Nutrition and Food Science at the University of the Basque Country in Vitoria, Spain, and colleagues.

The research team studied 224 children who were around 15 years old. They collected information on the foods the teens ate, their physical activity levels and their body fat composition.

Adolescents were grouped according to how much fat they ate: less than 33.6 percent, between 33.6 and 41.4 percent or more than 41.4 percent of total calories from fat.

The results showed that the amount of fat kids ate corresponded with the amount of belly fat they had.

Kids who ate diets containing fat calories in the middle group (between 33.6 and 41.4 percent of calories from fat) had 2 to 7 percent more belly fat than the kids who ate the least fat.

Adolescents who ate the highest-fat diets had 38 to 42 percent more belly fat than the kids who ate the least fat.

Even in physically active youths, eating fatty foods was associated with belly fat.

"It's not the total fat that is the problem, but the type of fat," said Dr. Barry Sears, author of Toxic Fat, in an interview with dailyRX News. "Both saturated fat and omega-6 fats (the primary component of polyunsaturated fat) are inflammatory fats that can generate insulin resistance."

Dr. Sears said inflammation from these fats can cause more problems.

"The inflammation generated sets up a 'fat trap' in the fat tissue where incoming calories are stored as fat, but can't be released for energy even during exercise," he said. "This is why the exercise had no effect on their abdominal body fat. With time the insulin resistance spreads (like a cancer) from the fat stores to the liver, pancreas, and heart muscles leading to chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

"Bottom line, high fat diets rich in saturated and omega-6 fats are bad for your future health."

The study was limited because the study authors only collected diet information for two days and the number of adolescents studied was small.

The study did not prove that diet caused the belly fat, but it did identify high-fat diets as a risk factor.

“These observations implicate the amount of fat intake as a specific risk factor in the excess of abdominal [fat] in adolescence,” the authors wrote.

The association of belly fat and diet may help explain the role of high-fat diets in diabetes and other metabolic disorders, the authors noted.

The study was published in the October issue of Clinical Nutrition.

The study was funded by the European Community Sixth RTD Framework Programme and the Spanish Ministries of Economy and Health. The authors declared no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
August 27, 2014
Last Updated:
August 31, 2014