Can dietary proteins selectively reduce either the visceral or subcutaneous adipose tissues?

Type Article

Journal Article


Nilaweera KN, Cotter PD.

Year of publication



Obes Rev







There is a considerable appeal for interventions that can selectively reduce either the visceral or subcutaneous white adipose tissues in humans and other species because of their associated impact on outcomes related to metabolic health. Here, we reviewed the data related to the specificity of five interventions to affect the two depots in humans and rodents. The interventions relate to the use of dietary proteins, monounsaturated fatty acids, polyunsaturated fatty acids, calorie restriction, or bariatric surgery. The available data show that calorie restriction and bariatric surgery reduce both visceral and subcutaneous tissues, whereas there is no consistency in the effect of monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fatty acids. Dietary proteins, more specifically, whey proteins show efficacy to reduce one or both depots based on how the proteins interact with other macronutrients in the diet. We provide evidence that this specificity is related to changes in the composition and the functional potential of the gut microbiota and the resulting metabolites produced by these microorganisms. The effect of the sex of the host is also discussed. This knowledge may help to develop nutritional approaches to deplete either the visceral or subcutaneous adipose tissues and improve metabolic health in humans and other species.