Diets differing in carbohydrate cellularity and amount similarly reduced visceral fat in people with obesity - a randomized controlled trial (CARBFUNC)

Clin Nutr. 2022 Oct;41(10):2345-2355. doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2022.08.028. Epub 2022 Sep 5.


Background & aims: Visceral adipose tissue (VAT) volume is associated with common lifestyle diseases. Dietary quality, including food matrix and degree of carbohydrate cellularity, as well as the carbohydrate/fat ratio, may influence VAT volume. We aimed to determine the effects of isocaloric diets differing in either "cellularity", a novel marker of dietary carbohydrate quality, or carbohydrate amount on visceral fat volume and anthropometric measures in adults with obesity.

Methods: In a randomized controlled trial of 193 people with obesity/central adiposity, we compared changes in VAT volume after 6 and 12 months, measured by abdominal computed tomography, on three isocaloric eating patterns based on "acellular" carbohydrate sources (e.g., flour-based whole-grain products; comparator arm), "cellular" carbohydrate sources (minimally processed foods with intact cellular structures such as fruits, potatoes/tubers, and rice), or low-carbohydrate high-fat (LCHF) principles. Outcomes were compared by an intention-to-treat (ITT) analysis using constrained linear mixed-effects modelling (cLMM) providing baseline-adjusted change scores and proper missing data handling without imputation.

Results: 78 and 57 participants completed 6 and 12 months, respectively, with similar intakes of energy (females: 1820-2060 kcal, males: 2480-2550 kcal) and protein (16-17 energy percent, E%) throughout the intervention, and only modest reductions in energy from baseline. Reported dietary intakes were 42-44, 41-42, and 11-15 E% carbohydrate and 36-38, 37-38, and 66-70 E% fat in the acellular, cellular and LCHF groups, respectively. There were no significant between-group differences in VAT volume after 6 months (cellular vs. acellular [95% CI]: -55 cm³ [-545, 436]; LCHF vs. acellular [95% CI]: -225 cm³ [-703, 253]) or after 12 months (cellular vs. acellular [95% CI]: -122 cm³ [-757, 514]; LCHF vs. acellular [95% CI]: -317 cm³ [-943, 309]). VAT volume decreased significantly within all groups by 14-18% and 12-17% after 6 and 12 months, respectively. Waist circumference was reduced to a significantly greater degree in the LCHF vs. acellular group at 6 months (LCHF vs. acellular [95% CI]: -2.78 cm [-5.54, -0.017]).

Conclusions: Despite modest energy restriction, the three isocaloric eating patterns, differing in carbohydrate cellularity and amount, decreased visceral fat volume significantly and to a similar clinically relevant degree.

Clinical trials identifier: NCT03401970.

Keywords: Body composition; Dietary carbohydrates; Intra-abdominal fat; Obesity; Randomized controlled trial; Tomography.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adiposity*
  • Adult
  • Diet, Fat-Restricted
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intra-Abdominal Fat*
  • Male
  • Obesity


  • Dietary Carbohydrates

Associated data