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The Proven Ways to Reduce Your Visceral Fat

These 5 tips can save your life.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

"Belly fat" sounds cute, the provenance of natural aging and Santa Claus. The reality is quite different. Belly Fat—technically known as visceral fat—surrounds organs deep within the abdomen, like the stomach, liver and intestines. The more visceral fat you have, the higher your chance of developing certain medical problems, like heart disease, several types of cancer, diabetes, and chronic kidney disease. Read on to find out how to reduce visceral fat—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Focus on Weight Loss

Young sport woman with tape measure

The easiest way to reduce visceral fat is to lose weight. "Weight loss alone can effectively reduce visceral fat," says W. Scott Butsch, MD, an obesity medicine specialist with the Cleveland Clinic. "By losing 10% of your body weight, you may lose up to 30% of your body fat." 


Employ a Healthy Diet

Woman holding a slice of cucumber

A diet high in added sugar and simple carbohydrates is a shortcut to belly fat. Cutting the junk can help you lose it. "​​Fructose, or sugar, causes fat cells to mature faster, specifically in the visceral fat," says the Cleveland Clinic. "A diet filled with fructose-containing sodas or drinks not only increases your calorie intake, but it impacts how the belly fat develops." So ditch sugar-sweetened drinks, fast food, and processed foods, and focus your diet on fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, fiber, nuts and whole grains. 

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A man and a woman stretching in the park.

Dieting alone won't reduce belly fat. Moving more is critical. "Exercise seems to work off belly fat in particular because it reduces circulating levels of insulin—which would otherwise signal the body to hang on to fat—and causes the liver to use up fatty acids, especially those nearby visceral fat deposits," says Kerry Stewart, Ed.D., director of clinical and research physiology at Johns Hopkins Medicine. Moderate physical activity combined with strength training seems to work best for burning belly fat, and it's better to exercise longer than to work out harder.

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Get Your Quality Sleep

woman smiling while sleeping

The battle of the bulge is largely won or lost when you're asleep. Researchers at Wake Forest University found that dieters who slept five hours or less every night put on 2.5 times more belly fat than people who got adequate sleep. Experts including the National Sleep Foundation say you should aim for seven to nine hours a night. It'll slash your belly fat and reduce your risk of a number of chronic diseases, including heart disease, cancer and dementia.  

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Don't Forget Stress Reduction

Happy mature woman with arms outstretched feeling the breeze at beach.

Excessive stress causes the body to produce more of the stress hormone cortisol, which tells the body to hold onto fat around the abdomen to cope with the strain. To fight stress belly, go to the source—reduce stress with exercise, relaxation techniques and mindfulness, and talk to your doctor if you need further help. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor. Read more about Michael