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Surefire Ways to Lessen Abdominal Fat

Here’s how to get rid of belly fat, according to science.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Abdominal fat is a particularly dangerous form of fat: Known as "active" fat thanks to its impact on hormone function, abdominal fat is stored deep in the belly around organs such as the liver and intestines. "Fat in the central abdominal area is an additional risk factor for heart disease, as it accelerates atherosclerosis," says preventive cardiologist Haitham Ahmed, MD, MPH. "If you're a man with a waist measuring 40 inches or more, or a woman with a waist of 35 inches or more (less, if you are Asian), you are at increased risk for heart disease and ought to talk to your doctor." Here are five proven ways to lose belly fat, according to experts. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Follow a Mediterranean Diet

greek salad mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean diet is not only delicious and incredibly healthy, it can help lessen abdominal fat. "The popular 'flat belly diets' embrace much of the wisdom found in eating a Mediterranean diet, which helps everything from brain health to heart health," say Rasa Kazlauskaite, MD, and Sheila Dugan, MD. "The basic premise for both diets is to eat foods rich in monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) that may help reduce your belly fat storage. MUFA-rich foods include olive oil, nuts and seeds, avocados, and fish. Eating yogurt regularly has also been found to be helpful in reducing belly fat."


Get Regular Exercise

woman jogging in the city by water

Regular exercise not only helps get rid of fat, but it can help maintain muscle. "Because aging is associated with sarcopenia, the loss of skeletal muscle mass, relying on body weight alone is insufficient for the study of healthy aging," says Rania Mekary, Ph.D. "Measuring waist circumference is a better indicator of healthy body composition among older adults. Engaging in resistance training or, ideally, combining it with aerobic exercise could help older adults lessen abdominal fat while increasing or preserving muscle mass."

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Smoking Is Giving You a Beer Belly

Business man in glasses and warm clothes smoking cigarette on the street

You don't need us to tell you smoking is really bad for your health—but did you know it also leads to an increase of abdominal fat? "We found that current smokers had abdominal muscles that were significantly higher in fat," says J Greg Terry, MSc. "Smokers also had a higher proportion of visceral fat, the fat around their internal organs, compared to never smokers, whereas those who had quit smoking had intermediate levels of visceral and intramuscular fat."

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Get At Least 7 Hours of Sleep

woman sleeping peacefully in bed with her dog

There is growing evidence that not getting enough sleep can lead to an increase in abdominal fat. "Our findings show that shortened sleep, even in young, healthy and relatively lean subjects, is associated with an increase in calorie intake, a very small increase in weight, and a significant increase in fat accumulation inside the belly," says Virend Somers, M.D., Ph.D., the Alice Sheets Marriott Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine. "Normally, fat is preferentially deposited subcutaneously or under the skin. However, the inadequate sleep appears to redirect fat to the more dangerous visceral compartment. Importantly, although during recovery sleep there was a decrease in calorie intake and weight, visceral fat continued to increase. This suggests that inadequate sleep is a previously unrecognized trigger for visceral fat deposition, and that catch-up sleep, at least in the short term, does not reverse the visceral fat accumulation."

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Chill Out

woman in pink shirt is relaxed as she stretches outside

Stress-induced cortisol can unfortunately lead to fat accumulation in the belly. "Chronically stressed primates that have increased cortisol also develop abdominal obesity and laboratory studies confirm a clear correlation between cortisol levels and the deposition of deep abdominal fat," says the American Institute of Stress. "A study of stressed out middle-aged Swedish men similarly showed that those with the highest cortisol levels also had the biggest beer bellies."

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more about Ferozan