Relationship between bread consumption, body weight, and abdominal fat distribution: evidence from epidemiological studies

Nutr Rev. 2012 Apr;70(4):218-33. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2012.00454.x.


A long-standing belief held by the general public is that bread fattens. This encourages many people to restrict, or even eliminate, bread from their diet. The present review was conducted to assess whether or not eating patterns that include bread are associated with overall obesity or excess abdominal adiposity, whether in the general population or in subjects undergoing obesity management. The literature search included articles published over the past 30 years that focused on dietary patterns that included bread (refined or whole-grain) and their association with ponderal status and abdominal fat distribution. A total of 38 epidemiological studies fulfilled the inclusion criteria (22 cross-sectional, 11 prospective cohort, and five intervention). The results indicate that dietary patterns that include whole-grain bread do not positively influence weight gain and may be beneficial to ponderal status. With respect to dietary patterns that include refined bread, the majority of cross-sectional studies indicate beneficial effects, while most of the well-designed cohort studies demonstrate a possible relationship with excess abdominal fat. Because differences in the study designs make it difficult to form definitive conclusions, more studies are needed that focus specifically on bread consumption, within different dietary patterns, and its influence on ponderal status.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Fat / metabolism
  • Abdominal Fat / pathology
  • Body Fat Distribution
  • Body Weight / physiology*
  • Bread*
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Humans
  • Obesity, Abdominal / epidemiology*
  • Obesity, Abdominal / etiology