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How to lose visceral fat: Four simple dietary tips to reduce belly fat in the ‘long run’

Dr Zoe Williams discusses visceral fat on This Morning

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Visceral fat lurks within your abdominal cavity, neighbouring important organs such as the liver, stomach, kidneys, and intestines. The belly fat has been linked to an increased risk of chronic conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Fortunately, you can beat the belly fat into submission by improving your diet.

There are some general dietary principles that can help you to lose belly fat in the “long run”, according to Holland and Barrett.

According to the health body, planning your meals wisely and controlling your portion size is a great place to start.

It also advises the following:

  • Make sure every meal is packed with fresh fruits and vegetables, alongside plenty of lean protein and healthy fats.
  • Choose soluble fibre foods
  • Stay clear of processed sugars and complex carbohydrates.

An encouraging body of evidence makes the case for packing your diet full of soluble fibre foods.

One study found that for every 10-gram increase in soluble fibre eaten per day, visceral fat was reduced by 3.7 percent over five years.

Ten grams of soluble fibre can be achieved by eating two small apples, one cup of green peas and one-half cup of pinto beans; moderate activity means exercising vigorously for 30 minutes, two to four times a week, said Kristen Hairston, M.D., assistant professor of internal medicine at Wake Forest Baptist and lead researcher on the study.

In addition, increased moderate activity resulted in a 7.4 percent decrease in the rate of visceral fat accumulation over the same time period.

For the study, published in the journal Obesity, researchers examined whether lifestyle factors, such as diet and frequency of exercise, were associated with a five-year change in abdominal fat of African Americans and Hispanic Americans; populations at a disproportionately higher risk for developing high blood pressure and diabetes and accumulating visceral fat.

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At the beginning of the study, which involved 1,114 people, the participants were given a physical exam, an extensive questionnaire on lifestyle issues, and a CT scan, the only accurate way to measure how much subcutaneous (the fat you can pinch) and visceral fat the participants had.

Five years later, the exact same process was repeated.

Researchers found that increased soluble fibre intake was associated with a decreased rate of accumulated visceral fat, but not subcutaneous fat.

“There is mounting evidence that eating more soluble fibre and increasing exercise reduces visceral or belly fat, although we still don’t know how it works,” Hairston said.

“Although the fibre-obesity relationship has been extensively studied, the relationship between fibre and specific fat deposits has not. Our study is valuable because it provides specific information on how dietary fibre, especially soluble fibre, may affect weight accumulation through abdominal fat deposits.”

The importance of exercise

According to Bupa, “combining resistance (strength) exercise and cardiovascular exercise is ideal” for burning the belly fat.

The health body continued: “Resistance exercises are a great way of helping you to maintain your muscle mass and your glucose metabolism (the way your body processes sugar and uses it for fuel), which are important for managing your weight.”

As it reports, resistance training has also been shown to reduce fat around your tummy area.

According to the NHS, you should do strengthening activities that work all the major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms) on at least two days a week.

You should also do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity a week, advises the health body.

Moderate activity will raise your heart rate, and make you breathe faster and feel warmer.

Vigorous intensity activity makes you breathe hard and fast.

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