As people go through their middle years, their proportion of fat to body weight tends to increase. Extra pounds tend to park themselves around the midsection.
Abdominal, know as visceral, fat is of particular concern because it plays a key role in a variety of health problems — much more so than subcutaneous fat, the kind you can grasp with your hand.
Scientists are also learning that visceral fat pumps out immune system chemicals called cytokines that can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. These and other biochemicals are thought to have deleterious effects on cells’ sensitivity to insulin, blood pressure, and blood clotting.
So what to do?
Numerous studies have shown that excess sugar, mostly due to the large amounts of fructose, can lead to increased accumulation of fat in the belly (1)
Liquid sugar is even worse in this regard. Liquid calories don’t get “registered” by the brain in the same way as solid calories, so when you drink sugar-sweetened beverages, you end up eating more total calories (2)
One study showed that the amount and quality of protein consumed was inversely related to fat in the belly. That is, people who ate more and better protein had much less belly fat. (3)
Increase fruits and veggies.
A study out of Denmark showed that refined carbs and oils were linked to increased amounts of belly fat, but fruits and vegetables linked to reduced amounts. (4)
Front-load your meal: Start your meal, especially your largest meal, with seasoned vegetables, be it vegetable soup or the vegetables on your entrée plate. And remember that vegetables should always comprise at least half of your plate and be a mix of starchy (like potatoes) and nonstarchy ones (your leafy greens, broccoli, etc.).
Increase your fiber.
In one 5-year study, eating 10 grams of soluble fiber per day was linked to a 3.7% reduction in the amount of fat in the abdominal cavity, but it had no effect on the amount of fat under the skin. (5)
Aerobic exercise (like walking, running, swimming, etc) has been shown to cause major reductions in belly fat in numerous studies. (6)
Reduce your stress.
Recent studies have shown an association between uncontrollable stress and abdominal fat distribution. It has been suggested that changes in cortisol secretion might represent one possible mechanism for this relationship. (7)
Add canola oil.
“Visceral, or abdominal, fat increases the risk for cardiovascular disease, and is also associated with increased risk for conditions such as metabolic syndrome and diabetes,” said Penny M. Kris-Etherton, distinguished professor of nutrition, Penn State. “Monounsaturated fats in canola oil decrease this fat that has adverse health effects.” (8)
A new study finds that people with a high degree of attention to their present thoughts and feelings — “dispositional mindfulness” — are less likely to be obese than people with a low degree of dispositional mindfulness. They also had about a pound less belly fat on average. (9)
Lastly, remember doing sit ups and “core” work does nothing for losing belly fat (10) but is great for back health.
Hoping you have great health in 2017.
Darren and Jesse