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Visceral fat is credited with triggering a number of life-threatening conditions, such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. The location of visceral fat explains its lethality – it is located near vital organs in the body. At first glance, the harm this fat poses can seem counterintuitive.
Most people fixate over subcutaneous fat – the type of fat you can pinch – but this type of fat does not present same level of threat.
Visceral fat can also seem trickier to shift because it is stored out of reach but there are proven methods for countering it.
Improving your diet invariably holds the key to reducing belly fat and evidence suggests increasing your intake of a particular food can aid this endeavour.
According to a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people who consumed several servings of whole grains per day while limiting daily intake of refined grains appeared to have less visceral fat.
Researchers at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Researcher Center on Aging (USDA HNRCA) at Tufts University observed lower volumes of visceral fat in people who chose to eat mostly whole grains instead of refined grains.
“VAT volume was approximately 10 percent lower in adults who reported eating three or more daily servings of whole grains and who limited their intake of refined grains to less than one serving per day,” said first author Nicola McKeown, PhD, a scientist with the Nutritional Epidemiology Program at the USDA HNRCA.
“For example, a slice of 100 percent whole wheat bread or a half cup of oatmeal constituted one serving of whole grains and a slice of white bread or a half cup of white rice represented a serving of refined grains.”
How did they gather their findings?
McKeown and colleagues, including senior author Caroline S. Fox, MD, MPH, medical officer at The Framingham Heart Study of the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), examined diet questionnaires submitted by 2,834 men and women enrolled in The Framingham Heart Offspring and Third Generation study cohorts.
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The participants, ages 32 to 83, underwent multidetector-computed tomography (MDCT) scans, to determine VAT and subcutaneous adipose tissue (SAT) volumes.
VAT, Visceral Adipose Tissue is another term for the fat that accumulates around the abdominal organs.
Additionally, in the present study, the authors observed that participants who consumed, on average, three daily servings of whole grains but continued to eat many refined grains did not demonstrate lower VAT volume.
“Whole grain consumption did not appear to improve VAT volume if refined grain intake exceeded four or more servings per day,” said McKeown, who is also an assistant professor at the Friedman School.
“This result implies that it is important to make substitutions in the diet, rather than simply adding whole grain foods. For example, choosing to cook with brown rice instead of white or making a sandwich with whole grain bread instead of white bread.”
Healthy whole grains include:
- Brown Rice
In addition to improving your diet, exercise plays an integral role in reducing visceral fat.
“The starting point for bringing weight under control, in general, and combating abdominal fat, in particular, is regular moderate-intensity physical activity — at least 30 minutes per day (and perhaps up to 60 minutes per day) to control weight and lose belly fat,” advises Harvard Health.
Moderate-intensity activities are those that get you moving fast enough or strenuously enough to burn off three to six times as much energy per minute as you do when you are sitting quietly.
Strength training (exercising with weights) may also help fight abdominal fat, according to the health body.
“Spot exercising, such as doing sit-ups, can tighten abdominal muscles, but it won’t get at visceral fat,” it adds.
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