Dr Zoe Williams discusses visceral fat on This Morning
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Visceral fat makes up one part of metabolic syndrome – a cluster of conditions that raise your risk of heart disease. Like high blood sugar and high blood pressure, visceral fat cannot be seen but its effect is highly pernicious. This is because it neighbours vital organs, such as the liver and intestines. Finding ways to expunge the harmful belly fat is therefore paramount.
The importance of exercise in this area should raise few eyebrows but what may come as a surprise is that even short bursts of exercise can get at the belly fat.
This is a key finding of a study published in the journal Frontiers in Physiology.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is an emerging lifestyle intervention strategy for controlling obesity.
HIIT involves quick bursts of intense exercise, mixed with lower intensity periods of rest.
However, researchers in the study drilled down into a particular approach to HIIT called sprint interval training (SIT).
This involves brief all-out “supramaximal” sprint intervals, the researchers explained.
The study was designed to examine the time-efficient characteristics of SIT in reducing abdominal visceral fat.
A randomised controlled trial was conducted to compare the specific adaptations of SIT (80 × 6 second all-out cycle sprints interspersed with nine seconds passive recovery) with those resulting from a HIIT regimen with training volume relatively higher, and with those of non-exercising control counterparts.
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Forty-six obese young women received either SIT, HIIT, or no training, for 12 weeks. The abdominal visceral fat area and abdominal subcutaneous fat area (the fat you can see) of the participants were measured.
Following the intervention, abdominal visceral and subcutaneous fat were reduced markedly.
The reduction in visceral fat was not different between the SIT and HIIT groups.
“Such findings suggest that the lower training load and exercise time commitments of the SIT regime could optimise the time-efficiency advantage of the traditional HIIT, facilitating the abdominal visceral fat reduction in obese young women,” the researchers concluded.
It is important to note that not all forms of exercise are effective against visceral fat.
“Spot exercises, such as sit-ups, can tighten abdominal muscles but won’t get at visceral fat. Exercise can also help keep fat from coming back,” explains Harvard Health.
Key dietary tips
If you want to reduce your belly fat, you’ll need to burn more calories (energy) than you consume, and eat the right kinds of food.
According to Bupa, eating a balanced diet can help you to achieve this.
“Try to eat at least five portions of fruit and veg each day, and include higher-fibre starchy foods in meals,” advises the health body.
Other tips include:
- Have some reduced-fat dairy or soya drinks fortified in calcium
- Eat more beans, pulses, fish and eggs
- Eat small amounts of unsaturated oil
- Drink six to eight glasses of water each day
- Avoid adding salt or sugar to your meals.
“Protein can be a helpful way to lose weight because it makes you feel fuller than carbs and fat do,” notes Bupa.
Good sources include chicken breast, tuna, mackerel, salmon, eggs, milk, red lentils, chickpeas, brown bread, nuts and soya.
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