Visceral fat is more insidious than subcutaneous fat – the type of fat you can pinch – because it lies deep under the surface. Visceral fat is stored close to internal organs such as the liver and the heart so carrying an excess amount of it can lead to life-threatening complications such as heart disease.
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Making healthy dietary decisions can help to reduce the harmful belly fat and eating a certain type of fibre has been shown to help.
Fibre is divided into two main groups soluble and insoluble fibre, and the former easily dissolves in water and is broken down into a gel-like substance in the part of the gut.
Insoluble fibre, on the other hand, does not dissolve in water and is left intact as food moves through the gastrointestinal tract.
Research investigating the mechanisms of soluble fibre show that the gel-like substance helps slow down the delivery of digested food from the stomach to the intestines.
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When soluble fibre reaches the colon, it’s fermented by gut bacteria into short-chain fatty acids – these fatty acids are a major source of nutrition for colon cells.
Studies show that short-chain fatty acids help increase levels of fullness hormones, such as cholecystokinin, GLP-1 and PYY, which may help to reduce visceral fat by suppressing your appetite.
Bolstering the claims, one study published in the journal Obesity 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, according to lead researcher Kristen Hairston, M.D., assistant professor of internal medicine at Wake Forest Baptist.
Other rich sources of soluble fibre include oats, oat bran, rice bran, barley, citrus fruits, strawberries and potatoes.
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The study also highlighted the importance of engaging in physical activity to burn visceral fat, finding that increased moderate activity resulted in a 7.4 percent decrease in the rate of visceral fat accumulation over the same time period.
In his concluding remarks, Hairston said: “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.
“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 fiber, especially soluble fibre, may affect weight accumulation through abdominal fat deposits.”
What is the best type of exercise to beat the harmful belly fat?
According to Harvard Health, engaging in moderate-intensity physical activity offers the best defence against visceral fat.
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For optimal results, the health site recommends doing at least 30 minutes and preferably 60 minutes of this type of activity to control weight and lose belly fat.
Numerous studies make an incontrovertible case for doing aerobic exercise to reduce the harmful belly fat.
In fact, many studies have shown that aerobic exercise can help you lose visceral fat, even without dieting.
For example, an analysis of 15 studies in 852 people compared how well different types of exercise reduced visceral fat without dieting.
They found that moderate and high-intensity aerobic exercises were most effective at reducing visceral fat without dieting.
What is aerobic exercise?
Aerobic activity is anything that gets you breathing faster and the blood in your heart pumping, such as brisk walking, swimming, running, or cycling.
Strength training (exercising with weights) may also help fight abdominal fat.
A study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology suggests the benefits to visceral fat loss may be more indirect than aerobic activity however, noting that participants who reported engaging in strength training also engaged in more healthy habits overall, including spending less time watching TV, more time doing aerobic exercise and eating a higher-quality diet.
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