Men and women alike often point to their stomach when saying that they need to lose weight. They are right—belly fat is a real reason for concern, but it is not just about appearance. Visceral fat surrounds our organs and increases the risk of our developing hypertension, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, dementia, and several types of cancer.
You want your waist size to be less than 35" if you are a woman and less than 40" if you are a man. It is not just a matter of weight either. Even thin people can have a dangerous amount of visceral fat (dubbed as skinny fat by the media). What can you do about it?
Strive for 30 minutes of moderate exercise at least 5 days a week. Taking a relaxing stroll around the neighborhood after dinner is not enough. If you are physically capable of doing more, you need to exercise at a level that is hard enough to get your heart rate up. That is still not enough according to some experts. You also need to incorporate resistance exercises and strength training into your daily life. It is a good idea to talk to your doctor before starting a program if you currently are sedentary.
Get lots of fiber
Research has shown that soluble fiber in particular is important for reducing the dangerous visceral fat.
Soluble fiber is found in:
Measure out your food
It may surprise you to learn what a serving should look like, especially if you frequently eat at restaurants. Those measuring cups and spoons do not have to become a permanent fixture in your kitchen. After a while, you will know how to better gauge serving sizes with your eyes.
Get the right kind of fat
In a recent study, 39 young adult men and women of normal weight were fed 750 extra calories/day for 7 week. One-half of the subjects got these extra calories from polyunsaturated fat in the form of sunflower oil while the other one-half got their surplus calories from saturated fat in the form of palm oil. The diets were the same in regards to sugar, carbohydrates, fat, and protein.
Those individuals who ate the muffins made with saturated fat had a significantly greater increase in the amount of fat in the liver and abdomen, particularly the visceral fat surrounding the internal organs. The people who ate the saturated fat also had a greater increase in total fat, while the individuals given the polyunsaturated fat had three times as much of an increase in muscle mass.
Consider drinking more green tea
In one study, the effects of catechin-enriched green tea on Chinese adults with a high proportion of abdominal visceral fat were evaluated, with 118 individuals randomly assigned to consume a beverage containing 609.3 milligrams (mg) of catechins and 68.7 mg caffeine daily or a control beverage for 12 weeks. Average visceral fat area, body weight, and body fat were reduced significantly by catechin-enriched green tea treatment, but these effects were not seen in the control group.
Get some sleep
It seems that 6 or 7 hours is the perfect amount of sleep for preventing accumulation of visceral fat.
When you are under stress, your body puts out more cortisol, a hormone that is linked to higher levels of visceral fat. Whether it is via deep breathing, meditation, journaling, enjoying outdoor activities, or something that works for you, you must find a way to lessen stress.
References and recommended readings
Abdominal fat accumulation prevented by unsaturated fat. ScienceDaily® Web site. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140224110017.htm. Published February 24, 2014. Accessed June 5, 2014.
Collins S. The truth about belly fat. WebMD® Web site. http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/the-truth-about-belly-fat. Accessed June 5, 2014.
Mayo Clinic staff. Belly fat in women: taking—and keeping—it off. Mayo Clinic Web site. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/womens-health/in-depth/belly-fat/art-20045809. Published June 8, 2013. Accessed June 5, 2014.
Zhang Y, Yu Y, Meguro S, et al. Effects of catechin-enriched green tea beverage on visceral fat loss in adults with a high proportion of visceral fat: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial. J Funct Foods. 2012;4(a):315-322. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1756464611001162. Accessed June 5, 2014.
Review Date 6/14