Because it is nestled deep between your organs and has been linked to inflammation in the body, belly fat is a contributor to many chronic diseases. “Visceral fat is a risk factor for developing Type 2 diabetes and heart disease,” says Dr. Caitlin Mason, a postdoctoral fellow at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre who has researched abdominal fat. “It’s involved in disrupting blood-sugar regulation and is associated with high cholesterol levels.”
Read on for five surprising ways to reduce belly fat -- for good.
1. Get your heart pumping
Hate crunches? Good news: Spot exercising only tightens the stomach muscles; it’s cardio that makes a dent in visceral fat. In a year-long study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, women who engaged in about 200 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week (that’s 40 minutes, five days a week) lost nearly 7 percent of their visceral fat. Those who attended only a weekly 45-minute stretching class actually gained ab fat.
2. Ban the trans.
Not all dietary fats are created equal when it comes to your body. Man-made trans fats, also called partially hydrogenated oils, are the worst. In a study published in the journal Obesity, when monkeys were fed similar diets with either monounsaturated fat or trans fats, those that ate the trans fats gained more weight -- especially in their stomachs. So avoid trans fats as much as possible, and load up on monounsaturated fats.
Foods high in trans fats include:
Fried foods (doughnuts and chips)
Foods high in monounsaturated fats include:
3. Hit the snooze button.
You snooze, you lose ... stubborn belly fat! In a study published in the journal SLEEP, people who got fewer than five hours of sleep per night gained 7 pounds more visceral fat over a five-year period than those who got six hours of sleep per night.
4. Stress less.
Take time out of your crazy-busy day to curl up with a good book, soak in the tub or chat about your passions with friends. A study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine found that slim women with higher levels of abdominal fat secrete more of the stress hormone cortisol than slim women with less belly fat. (Researchers suspect that cortisol promotes accumulation of body fat, specifically around the middle.) Since the body produces cortisol in reaction to stress, determine -- and practise -- strategies that lower your anxiety level.
5. Build more muscle.
Once you’ve dropped the belly fat, resistance training works as well as cardio to keep it at bay. Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham split up women who’d lost weight into three groups: strength trainers, aerobic exercisers and non-exercisers. Both exercise groups kept off ab fat, while non-exercisers’ ab fat increased by 25 percent. Just 80 minutes per week did the trick -- that’s only 20 minutes, four days a week! So add some strength moves to your cardio routine to mix it up and to avoid workout burnout.
By Ella Brooks for Oral Care and Health Daily