British Journal of Nutrition

Systematic Review

Associations between dietary variety and measures of body adiposity: a systematic review of epidemiological studies

Maya Vadivelooa1, L. Beth Dixona1 and Niyati Parekha2 c1

a1 Department of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health, Steinhardt School, New York University, New York University, 411 Lafayette Street, 5th Floor, NY 10003, USA

a2 Department of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health, Steinhardt School, New York University, 411 Lafayette Street, Room 542, NY 10003, USA and Department of Population Health, New York University, Langone School of Medicine, NY 10016, USA

Abstract

Dietary variety is positively correlated with energy intake in most studies. However, the associations between dietary variety and measures of body adiposity are inconsistent in the literature, which limits the development of clear national nutrition recommendations regarding dietary variety. In the present systematic review, we critically evaluate the associations between dietary variety and measures of body adiposity among healthy adults within the existing literature. We conducted a systematic search of the MEDLINE and Web of Science databases in accordance with the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses statement to examine these associations. We identified twenty-six studies in total that investigated the associations between dietary variety and body adiposity measures. Total variety was non-significantly associated with body adiposity in most studies, while variety in recommended foods was either inversely associated (six out of ten studies) or non-significantly associated (three out of ten studies) with body adiposity. Conversely, variety in non-recommended foods (i.e. sources of added sugars and solid fats) increased the likelihood of excess adiposity in most studies (six out of nine studies). Definitions and measurement of dietary variety were inconsistent across studies and contributed to some of the discrepancies noted in the literature. In conclusion, among the studies that met the inclusion criteria for the present review, dietary variety was inconsistently associated with body adiposity in diverse populations. Using consistent and specific definitions of dietary variety may help provide further insight into the associations between dietary variety and excess adiposity before definitive public health messages are made.

(Received July 06 2012)

(Revised October 30 2012)

(Accepted December 14 2012)

(Online publication February 27 2013)

Key Words:

  • Dietary variety;
  • Obesity;
  • Adiposity

Correspondence

c1 Corresponding author: Dr N. Parekh, email niyati.parekh@nyu.edu

Footnotes

  Abbreviations: WC, waist circumference; WHR, waist:hip ratio.