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5 science-backed ways to reduce visceral fat

There is an epidemic in Western countries, and few people are aware of it. It’s an epidemic of visceral fat, a kind of deep fat that accumulates around vital organs, like the liver, and has been linked to health problems like diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.

You might assume that only overweight or obese people have too much visceral fat, but that’s not the case. Thin people, especially inactive people and the elderly, may have enough visceral fat to increase their risk of chronic health problems. They may look thin, but they’re not healthy because they have too much visceral fat and other markers of poor health.

While reducing visceral fat isn’t easy, science shows that there are ways to reduce your body’s visceral fat load and simultaneously improve your health.

Signs of excess visceral fat

How do you know if you’re tipping the scales in terms of visceral fat? One sign that you are carrying too much visceral fat is your waistline. If your height is more than half your height, you have too much visceral fat.

For example, a person who is five feet six inches or 66 inches tall should have a waist circumference of less than 33 inches. In general, guidelines state that a waist circumference of more than 35 inches in men and 30 inches in women is a marker of too much visceral fat.

In fact, the only way to know how much visceral fat you have is to do an imaging study. But waist circumference is still a good marker, so check your waist circumference with a tape measure at least once a month and write down the value.

If your waistline indicates you have too much visceral fat, what can you do?

Eat more fiber

Soluble fiber absorbs water and forms a gel that helps slow the passage of food through your digestive system. This can help you feel full longer and reduce the number of calories you take in from other foods. In addition, fiber helps control blood sugar.

One way to reduce visceral fat is to eat more fiber-rich foods. Fiber is the part of plant foods that your body can’t digest, so it helps you feel full longer and keeps your digestive system healthy. Fiber-rich foods include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes (like beans and lentils).

Strawberries, raspberries and blackberries are also great sources of soluble and insoluble fiber and are nutrient dense. They also have many other health benefits, such as being anti-inflammatory and high in antioxidants, which helps protect against cardiovascular disease and other chronic health conditions. Non-starchy vegetables, lentils, beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains are other rich sources of fiber.

To manage stress

Stress increases cortisol, a stress hormone that increases visceral fat. When your body produces too much cortisol, it moves where your body stores fat to your midsection and increases deeper visceral fat. Make sure you don’t let chronic stress take over your life and your health. Reduce stress levels with mind-body activities like yoga and meditation, take a nature walk, or take a warm bath.

Focus on quality sleep

A good night’s sleep is essential for health and well-being. Many people don’t realize how important sleep is for immune health, brain function, etc. In addition, numerous studies show that lack of sleep increases cortisol, the stress hormone, and stimulates visceral fat.

One study showed that people who slept 5 hours or less per night had more visceral fat than those who slept 7 hours or more per night. So aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night to control visceral fat. Also, not getting enough sleep increases the appetite hormone, ghrelin, so you crave sugary foods and eat more. When you gain weight by eating sugary foods, your body stores some of it as visceral fat. Make sure you get at least 7 hours of quality sleep each night.

Reduce your sugar intake

One way to reduce visceral fat is to reduce sugar, another contributor to visceral fat. You must beware! Sugar is present in most ultra-processed foods and drinks, even fruit juices. It also appears in foods high in fat – like candy and ice cream – and those high in carbohydrates, like bread and pasta. It’s everywhere!

The World Health Organization (WHO) advises that sugars should make up less than 10% of your total energy intake each day. This means that if you eat 2,000 calories a day, no more than 200 calories should come from sugar. How can you reduce your sugar intake to control visceral fat?

Replace sugary drinks with plain water. Sodas and fruit drinks are loaded with sugar. If you drink at least one sugary drink a day, replacing those calories with water could save you hundreds of calories each week. Additionally, studies show that sugary drinks are major contributors to visceral fat.

Know where the sugar hides. It’s in everything from ketchup and salad dressing to bread, pasta and yogurt. You may not realize how much sugar you’re consuming until you start counting the grams. The best way to do this is to keep a food diary for a few days.

Read labels carefully. It may take time, but it’s worth it if you want to know exactly what’s in the food you’re eating. Pay particular attention to ingredients listed at the end of a list – these are things that manufacturers add for flavor or texture, so they’re often full of added sugars. Better yet, avoid packaged foods altogether!

Stay physically active with exercises that work large muscle groups

Physical activity is a must if you’re trying to tame visceral fat. You will get the most benefit from performing exercises that work large muscle groups, such as those in your lower body. These bigger muscles burn more calories and fat and affect hormones that regulate weight and control blood sugar more. Focus on squats, deadlifts, and dynamic exercises like running or biking.

Exercise improves insulin sensitivity and reduces inflammation in the body, which can help with weight loss and visceral fat loss. You can reduce visceral fat by staying physically active with exercises that work large muscle groups.

Walking is the most common form of exercise, but you’ll get more benefit by adding hills and short bursts of more intense exercise, like walking as fast as you can.

But don’t ignore the benefits of strength training. Focus on exercises that work the big muscles in your lower body, like squats and deadlifts, for the best return on your time investment.

Conclusion

The takeaway here is that healthy lifestyle changes can help you tame visceral fat. If you are already doing these things, keep going and be patient. You can monitor your progress by checking your waistline weekly and seeing if it’s shrinking.

References:

  1. “How to Get Rid of Visceral Fat – Healthline.” August 22, 2017, healthline.com/nutrition/lose-visceral-fat.
  2. “The effect of exercise on visceral adipose tissue in overweight adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis” by Dirk Vissers, Wendy Hens, Jan Taeymans, Jean-Pierre Baeyens, Jacques Poortmans and Luc Van Gaal, February 8, 2013, PLOS ONE.
    DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0056415
  3. “Consumption of sugary drinks is associated with visceral fat in children” by Claire Gallagher, George Moschonis, Katrina A. Lambert, Eva Karaglani, Christina Mavrogianni, Stavroula Gavrili, Yannis Manios and Bircan Erbas, August 19, 2020, British Journal of Nutrition.
    DOI: 10.1017/S0007114520003256
  4. “The effects of fiber on visceral fat” by Yoona Kim, January 11, 2019, Nutrition in the Prevention and Treatment of Abdominal Obesity (Second Edition).
    DOI: 10.1016/B978-0-12-816093-0.00031-8



5 science-backed ways to reduce visceral fat

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