The problem is that belly fat isn’t just the ‘inch you can pinch’ , it is also what is in your abdomen and surrounding your internal organs. This fat is known as visceral fat. If you have too much fat you can grab that probably means you have too much internal visceral fat too, and that is much more dangerous.
Visceral fat is thought to be more metabolically active than subcutaneous fat. It produces hormones and chemicals that can cause harm and affect how our organs function. This puts us at greater risk of diabetes or heart disease. Anything we can do to reduce this belly fat can only do us good.
So is there an answer – and is it diet or exercise?
We are bombarded online by a variety of techniques which claim to be able to target problem areas such as a belly using quick fixes. The question is can we really target fat within our bodies doing something known as ‘spot reducing’ by exercise or diet?
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The Belly Fat experiment
We gathered a group of 35 volunteers at Oxford to take part in our experiment over 6 weeks. They all had unhealthy waistlines and excess belly fat which they were hoping to lose.
Our Diet group lost the most amount of weight – on average they lost 3.7kg of weight each over the 6 weeks. A total of 35kg between them. The total body fat that was lost it was about 5%. But interestingly if we look at the results of visceral fat there was in fact a reduction of about 14% each! This group also reduced their cholesterol and blood pressure, and measured a 5cm reduction in their waistlines!
The diet group showed 3 times greater fat loss in from the visceral fat compared with the rest of body fat. This clearly shows that visceral fat is preferentially lost with a short term effective dietary restriction.
The diet group were the clear winners in our experiment. But our results also highlight the importance of managing what you eat to lose weight as well as exercising to avoid muscle loss and maintain overall health and fitness. Thinking about how active you are is important and remember it isn’t just about going to the gym. You can increase your activity just by thinking about what you already do and doing more of it. For example, take the stairs instead of the lift and opt to walk when possible. You could also try adding milk to your diet to stave off muscle loss! It certainly won’t make you put on more weight or affect your blood fats – at least by our results.
The fad diets and exercise regimes out there just aren’t needed. It really can be just as simple as getting more activity in to our daily lives and controlling the portion sizes of our food. – end of story.
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