Phytonutrient intake and body composition: Considering colors
Background: Being overweight or obese is one of the most harmful risk factors to the health of a population. The cause of obesity is complex and multifactorial, but the primary cause is a nutrient poor diet. Despite excess intake of calories, obese individuals commonly have a lack of phytonutrients. Phytonutrients such as chlorophyll, carotenoids, and anthocyanins have all been shown to have anti-obesity effects. National data shows that states in with the lowest intakes of fruit and vegetable intake also have higher obesity rates. The data available depicts that a low fruit and vegetable intake, thus low phytonutrient intake, is correlated with excess adiposity.
Methods: Fifty subjects from Thibodaux, Louisiana were randomly selected to participate. Three 24-hour food recalls were used to calculate phytonutrient content of the diets using the phytonutrient index. A food frequency questionnaire was also administered to determine intake of specific phytonutrients (carotenoids, anthocyanins, and carotenoids). Body adiposity was measured using body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, and fat percentage. Pearson correlation was used to assess correlations between phytonutrient index and body adiposity measures. Analysis of variance (ANOVA) with post-hoc tests was used to determine differences in PI and phytonutrient intakes among the BMI, waist circumference and percent body fat groups.
Results: Participants who met healthy standards for BMI, waist circumference, and fat percentage all averaged much higher PI scores compared to those classified as obese/overweight. The data showed a strong inverse relationship between PI and BMI (r = -0.753, p = 0.00), waist circumference (r = -0.730, p = 0.00), and body fat percentage (r = -0.701, p = 0.00). Higher weekly intakes of chlorophyll, carotenoid, and anthocyanin rich foods had better body composition in comparison to those who consumed less (p<0.05).Conclusion: Results suggest a strong correlation between higher phytonutrient intake and improved body composition. Overall diet quality seems to make the most difference, but phytonutrients are thought to be a key reason for those benefits
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