Dr. Iris Shai is a researcher in the field of nutrition, epidemiology, and chronic diseases at The S. Daniel Abraham International Center for Health and Nutrition, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel.
Does our body “record” everything we eat? And is all fat created equal?
A group of researchers from Ben-Gurion University tackled these questions in innovative research, applying clinical methodology used for testing new medications.
As the old saying goes, “you are what you eat.” And it’s a “no-brainer” that junk food is less healthy than fruits and vegetables. (Why else would they call it “junk” food?)
But can you binge on junk food today and offset it with a couple healthy meals tomorrow?
It turns out, the researchers found, that your body “remembers” everything you eat. That is, the food you eat has a cumulative health impact – for better or worse.
Duh. This again is a bit of a “no-brainer.” But what is really interesting in the research findings is that the benefits of a healthy diet are not necessarily associated only with weight loss or a fat-free physique.
Participants in a two-year randomized controlled intervention study and a further 4 year follow-up achieved maximum weight loss within the first six months – but a number of health indicators continued to improve even after a participant’s weight partially leveled off.
In other words, a good diet has health benefits beyond weight loss.
In fact, one of the groundbreaking findings is that good nutrition can even help to reverse the hardening of the arteries – and thus prevent heart attacks and strokes – by “melting” the plaque that accumulates in our arteries.
In other words, your body ” remembers” but might have some flexibility for reversibility.
But what about those “love handles”?
Using MRI technologies to study the different layers of fat in our bodies, the researchers found that good health also depends partly on where you store your fat. And where you store your fact partly depends on the type of food you eat.
For example, if you consume a lot of trans fatty acids, your fat will tend to accumulate in deeper, intra-abdominal tissue associated with greater cardiometabolic risk. But if you follow a healthy diet, more of your fat will be stored in subcutaneous tissue, just under your skin.
This means that a plump person whose fat in mainly stored just under the skin may be healthier than a thin person whose fat is stored in deeper layers. Not all fat is created equal!