How to Reduce the Visceral Fat Around Your Middle
A new study from the University of Oxford suggests every extra inch around your middle increases the risk of heart failure by 10%. "A larger waist measurement is often a sign that you have too much visceral fat, which sits around our internal organs and impairs the way our heart and blood vessels function," says James Leiper, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation. "Heart failure is a chronic and incurable condition that worsens over time, so these findings underline the importance of managing your weight now. People who carry more weight around their middle have an increased risk of higher cholesterol, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. These risk factors are all closely linked with heart and circulatory diseases, which can then increase the risk of heart failure." Worried about your belly fat? Here are five scientifically-proven ways to fight visceral fat. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Eat More Soluble Fiber
Research shows that eating soluble fiber from vegetables, fruit, and beans can help decrease belly fat. "We know that a higher rate of visceral fat is associated with high blood pressure, diabetes and fatty liver disease," says Kristen Hairston, MD, assistant professor of internal medicine at Wake Forest Baptist and lead researcher on the study. "Our study found that making a few simple changes can have a big health impact… There is mounting evidence that eating more soluble fiber and increasing exercise reduces visceral or belly fat, although we still don't know how it works. Although the fiber-obesity relationship has been extensively studied, the relationship between fiber and specific fat deposits has not. Our study is valuable because it provides specific information on how dietary fiber, especially soluble fiber, may affect weight accumulation through abdominal fat deposits."
Physical inactivity can lead to a significant increase in visceral fat. "The results of our investigation show that in sedentary overweight adults who continue to choose a sedentary lifestyle the detrimental effects are worse and more rapid than we previously thought," says Cris Slentz, PhD. However, "Participants who exercised at a level equivalent to 17 miles of jogging each week saw significant declines in visceral fat, subcutaneous abdominal fat and total abdominal fat. While this may seem like a lot of exercise our previously sedentary and overweight subjects were quite capable of doing this amount."
Avoid Sugary Beverages
Sugary drinks are strongly linked to excess belly fat, experts warn. "There is evidence linking sugar-sweetened beverages with cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes," says Caroline S. Fox, MD, MPH, lead study author and a former investigator with the Framingham Heart Study of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. "Our message to consumers is to follow the current dietary guidelines and to be mindful of how much sugar-sweetened beverages they drink. To policy makers, this study adds another piece of evidence to the growing body of research suggesting sugar-sweetened beverages may be harmful to our health."
Focus On Sleep
Too little sleep is linked with increased belly fat for people under 40, experts say. "We put a lot of stock in diet," says Dr. Hairston. "But this study brings up some interesting questions about the way we live. We may need to start looking at other behaviors—besides daily food choices—that could be contributing to the obesity epidemic in younger age groups. We don't really know yet why this wasn't seen in participants over 40, but it was clear that, in individuals under 40, it is worse to get five or less hours of sleep on average each night than it is to get eight or more hours. However, both may be detrimental and, in general, people should aim for six to eight hours of sleep each night."
Maintain a Healthy Weight
"The heavier you are, the fuller the standard areas to store fat become, meaning that the fat ends up being deposited around your abdominal organs and your heart," says Dr. Garth Davis, bariatric surgeon at Houston Methodist. "In surgery with these patients, it's a very short distance from the skin to the belly, but then the belly is just filled with fat — fat in the liver, fat lining the intestines, fat everywhere."
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