Dr Zoe Williams discusses visceral fat on This Morning
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The fat that you carry is not created equal – visceral fat is far more dangerous than subcutaneous fat – the fat you can see. It is stored in your abdominal cavity, neighbouring vital organs such as the liver, stomach, kidneys, and intestines. A visceral fat build-up can therefore make you uniquely vulnerable to developing chronic conditions, such as type 2 diabetes.
Fortunately, you can strike a blow to belly fat by making healthy dietary modifications.
According to Holland and Barrett, choosing soluble fibre foods can help to lose belly fat “fast”.
Soluble fibre absorbs water and forms a gel that helps slow down food as it passes through your digestive system.
“It helps you feel fuller for longer, so you end up eating less and not snacking excessively,” explains Holland and Barrett.
Examples of soluble fibre foods include flax seeds, avocados, blackberries, and Brussels sprouts.
What does the research say?
A study conducted by researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center found eating more soluble fibre from vegetables, fruit and beans, and engaging in moderate activity, led to reductions in visceral fat.
The 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.
In addition, increased moderate activity resulted in a 7.4 percent decrease in the rate of visceral fat accumulation over the same time period.
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“We know that a higher rate of visceral fat is associated with high blood pressure, diabetes and fatty liver disease,” said Kristen Hairston, M.D., assistant professor of internal medicine at Wake Forest Baptist and lead researcher on the study.
“Our study found that making a few simple changes can have a big health impact.”
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, Hairston added.
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.
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 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 fiber and increasing exercise reduces visceral or belly fat, although we still don’t know how it works,” Hairston said.
She continued: “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.”
Like insoluble fibre, protein can accelerate weight loss by promoting fullness.
“If you include a lean source of protein, such as skinless white chicken, in your meals you may find that you’re not as hungry, and so eat less,” explains Bupa.
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