Beyond the Belly Fat Blues

When it comes to your health, it turns out that not all body fat is created equal.

Unlike fat on your thighs, the fat around your waistline—known as visceral fat—resides deep within your abdominal cavity and envelopes your abdominal organs. Visceral fat also functions differently than fat stored in other areas of your body. It produces more cytokines, proteins that activate low-level inflammation, and emits more of the retinol-binding protein 4, a protein that builds insulin resistance in your body.

As a result, visceral fat is associated with an increased risk for a number of health conditions, such as asthma, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, cardiovascular disease, dementia and Type 2 diabetes.

Targeting Your Tummy

Protect your health from the effects of visceral fat with the following strategies:

  • Catch some z’s. Research has found that adults who sleep too little (fewer than five hours per night) or adults younger than 40 who sleep too much (more than eight hours per night) have more visceral fat.
  • Exercise. Trim your waistline by participating in a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity five or more days a week.
  • Increase your soluble fiber intake. Oats, legumes, seeds (such as flax and chia), and some fruits and vegetables are good sources of soluble fiber. A study published in Obesity found that participants who increased their daily soluble fiber consumption by 10 grams experienced a 3.7% reduction in the accumulation of visceral fat.
  • Watch your diet. Eating a nutritious, balanced and well-portioned diet is key to losing excess body fat. Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, choose lean sources of protein, eat whole grains and limit foods high in sodium, added sugar and saturated fats.


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