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Comparisons of calorie restriction and structured exercise on reductions in visceral and abdominal subcutaneous adipose tissue: a systematic review

Abstract

Exercise and low-calorie diets are common approaches taken to produce an energy deficit for weight loss in obesity. Changes in visceral and abdominal subcutaneous fat associated with weight loss are important questions but have not yet been concluded. We investigated the relationship between changes in visceral (VAT) and subcutaneous adipose tissue (SAT) areas obtained by abdominal imaging with the change in total body fat. The relevant databases were searched through January 2021 according to the PRISMA guidelines. Sixty-five studies were included. We found that the change in total body fat was associated with changes in both VAT and abdominal SAT areas, but the relationship between total body fat and the abdominal SAT area appeared stronger. Baseline values of VAT and abdominal SAT area were similar in the three treatment groups (calorie restriction, calorie restriction plus exercise, and exercise alone). The reduction in abdominal SAT area for a loss of 1 kg of total body fat was about 10 cm2, which was similar among all the treatments. The change in VAT area (−26.3 cm2) was a similar level as the change in abdominal SAT area (−31.5 cm2) in the exercise, whereas in the calorie restriction with and without exercise, the change in VAT area (−33.6 and −51.6 cm2, respectively) was approximately half of the reduction of SAT area (−65.1 and −87.2 cm2, respectively). Absolute changes in VAT and abdominal SAT areas might differ between interventions for the exercise and calorie restriction with and without exercise.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2: Relationships between changes in total body fat and abdominal subcutaneous adiposetissue (SAT) area or visceral adipose tissue (VAT) area.
Fig. 3: Changes in abdominal subcutaneous adipose tissue (SAT) area and visceral adiposetissue (VAT) area following treatments of calorie restriction, calorie restriction combined withexercise, and exercise alone.

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Conceived and designed the study: TA and JPL. Searched and analyzed the articles: TA and JSS. Wrote the manuscript: TA. Reviewed and critically revised the manuscript: JSS, ZWB, VW, RWS, YY and JPL. All authors approved the final version of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Takashi Abe.

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Abe, T., Song, J.S., Bell, Z.W. et al. Comparisons of calorie restriction and structured exercise on reductions in visceral and abdominal subcutaneous adipose tissue: a systematic review. Eur J Clin Nutr 76, 184–195 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41430-021-00942-1

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