1 trick of a tiny belly

Great news, but just for women. Well, for men too, but only indirectly. Also, 7 other things worth your time.

Today: A little bit of good news for women, coming to us from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, where researchers set out to determine whether eating avocados could affect belly fat in a positive way.

Cutting to the chase: Yes, it did, but mainly just for women.

More on this in a second, but I want us to come clean first about why these researchers were studying avocados to begin with.

  • Was it because they’re tasty and trendy? Maybe.

  • Was it because avocado toast, despite having at one point become symbolic for all the wrong that Millennials have wrought upon the world (as if they were the only generation that has some things to answer for; join the club), is actually delicious? Quite possibly.

  • Was it because the whole study was funded by the Hass Avocado Board, which, according to its website, “exists to help make avocados America’s most popular fruit?” Ding ding ding! There’s your winner!

I wanted to provide that context; it’s also disclosed right up front in the article itself, and you can decide whether to take the whole thing with a grain of salt.

But if you can set that aside, the results here are actually interesting.

The Illinois researchers, whose work was published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Nutrition, selected 105 people who were either overweight or obese, and asked them to agree to eat one meal prepared by the team each day.

The food doesn’t sound too bad: penne pasta, cranberry salad, a turkey wrap, or an egg scramble, and the like.

However, sort of like the old Taster’s Choice commercials, what the participants didn’t know was that the researchers secretly added an avocado to every meal given to half of the participants.

The other half? No avocados for them.

At the start and end of the 12-week experiment, the participants’ abdominal fat and glucose tolerance were tested. You can probably figure out what happened, since if the results had been bad for the avocado board, I sort of doubt they would have wound up published in the Journal of Nutrition.

Women who had eaten an avocado each day had:

  • less visceral abdominal fat at the end of the experiment (defined as, “the hard-to-target fat associated with higher risk”), and

  • a lower ratio of visceral fat to subcutaneous fat, which suggested fat moved away from their internal organs.

By the way—and if I could have fit this higher, I would have—but there two kinds of abdominal fat: subcutaneous fat, which accumulates just below the skin, and visceral fat, which is much deeper in the abdomen and surrounds the internal organs.

As Dr. Naiman Khan, an Illinois professor of kinesiology and community health who led the study, explains: “Individuals with a higher proportion of that deeper visceral fat tend to be at a higher risk of developing diabetes.”

So, great for women! But there was no reduction measured among men, whether they ate avocados or not.

Still, I think we men get a benefit, which is incremental progress toward the day when we no longer have to endure those annoying ads about “belly fat” on every website that uses Google AdSense to make a few dollars.

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Yesterday’s Understandably Live

This was a good one, as I hoped it might be. I talked with Grigory Lukin about leaving Amazon at age 34 … to retire. If you’re familiar with FIRE, this concept won’t be new, but I think it was a really interesting interview. As I look at this, it’s about buying yourself the freedom to do what you enjoy, on your own time and terms, rather than adhering to the traditional “9-5, M-F, 23-72” model of work we’ve all come to accept.

7 other things worth your time

  • Guys, this isn’t great. We’re on pace for the worst year for gun violence in the US in decades. From January 1 to September 15, a total of 14,516 people died from gun violence in the US, which is 1,300 more than during the same period in 2020 (up 9%). Mass shootings are also on the rise: 498 across the US this year, or an average of about 1.92 per day. Last year, the rate was 1.67 per day. (CNN)

  • The ancient massive trees of Sequoia National Park’s famed Giant Forest were unscathed Tuesday even though a wildfire has been burning near them on the western side of California’s Sierra Nevada for nearly two weeks. “As of right now, we don’t have any damage to any of our trees,” said fire information officer Mark Garrett. (AP)

  • In the latest example of a wicked hot housing market, a 10-foot-wide house in Boston has sold for $1.25 million. Located in the city's historic North End neighborhood, the 2-bedroom 1-bath home was built in 1890, according to city tax records, though some accounts say 1862. (NPR)

  • Apple is bringing “verifiable COVID-19 vaccination cards,” colloquially known as vaccine passports, to Wallet as part of a future iPhone software update.

  • Apparently, they are male, or they do not eat avocados: Alaska’s Katmai National Park has once again launched its popular Fat Bear Week, allowing people to vote on the full-framed bear best prepared for winter. (NPS)

  • The family of a retired chauffeur who turned 100 years old tracked down the Bentley S3 he drove for his employer back in 1964, bought it, and gave him the keys to it for his birthday. (They searched for the VIN and found it in California.) Eddie Hughes of Lacock, England, said he was “very emotional” when he saw it, but how’s this for a kicker? “He unfortunately won't be getting to drive it … as he is about turn in his driver’s license after 83 years.” (Fox News)

  • A 107-year-old French pianist has just released a new album, her sixth. (Imagine you’re the guy who lives to be 100, and you get a nearly 60-year-old car for your birthday, and you’re still not the oldest person in this newsletter.) (NPR)

Thanks for reading, as always. Photo credit: Pixabay. How great was it that I found a stock photo with appetizing food and a whole avocado off to the side? Want to see all my mistakes? Click here.