Body fat is not created equal in terms of its health risks, and visceral fat is regarded as the most dangerous as it wraps around internal organs.
In contrast to subcutaneous fat, which sits just below the surface of the skin, the proximity of visceral fat to internal organs can lead to metabolic disease, insulin resistance, and an increased risk of death.
Numerous studies have touted the health benefits of following low-carb diet, which generally consists of the following:
- Strong vegetable intake
- Modest increase in fat intake from natural sources
- Moderate protein intake
- Low reliance upon processed food, sugar and grains
It has been shown to ward off a wide-range of health complications, and is increasingly recommended for people with type 2 diabetes to help them manage their blood sugar levels.
In addition a low-carb diet has been shown to aid weight loss, and the ketogenic diet, which is a very low-carb diet that involves cutting back on carbs and replacing them with fat, has been shown to combat harmful visceral fat.
A study including 28 overweight and obese adults found that those who followed a ketogenic diet lost more fat, especially visceral fat, than people following a low-fat diet.
Key components of a keto diet include:
- Low-Carb Vegetables
- Meat and Poultry
- Coconut Oil
- Plain Greek Yogurt and Cottage Cheese.
Notably, avocados and keto-friendly vegetables such as Brussels sprouts are high in soluble – a type of fibre that easily dissolves in water and is broken down into a gel-like substance in the gut.
And soluble fibres have been shown to deal an effective blow to visceral fat, with one study in particular demonstrating weight-loss benefits of upping insoluble fibre-intake.
The study, published journal Obesity, suggested the best defence against visceral fat is to eat more soluble fibre from vegetables, fruit and beans, and engage in moderate activity.
The study found that for every 10-gram increase in soluble fibre eaten per day, visceral fat was reduced by 3.7 percent over five years. In addition, increased moderate activity resulted in a 7.4 percent decrease in the rate of visceral fat accumulation over the same time period.
“We know that a higher rate of visceral fat is associated with high blood pressure, diabetes and fatty liver disease,” said Kristen Hairston, M.D., assistant professor of internal medicine at Wake Forest Baptist and lead researcher on the study.
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They added: “Our study found that making a few simple changes can have a big health impact.”
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; moderate activity means exercising vigorously for 30 minutes, two to four times a week, Hairston added.
In the longitudinal study, published in the June 16 online issue of the journal Obesity, researchers examined whether lifestyle factors, such as diet and frequency of exercise, were associated with a five-year change in abdominal fat of African Americans and Hispanic Americans – populations at a disproportionately higher risk for developing high blood pressure and diabetes and accumulating visceral fat.
At the beginning of the study, which involved 1,114 people, the participants were given a physical exam, an extensive questionnaire on lifestyle issues, and a CT scan, the only accurate way to measure how much subcutaneous and visceral fat the participants had. Five years later, the exact same process was repeated.
Researchers found that increased soluble fibre intake was associated with a decreased rate of accumulated visceral fat, but not subcutaneous fat.
“There is mounting evidence that eating more soluble fiber and increasing exercise reduces visceral or belly fat, although we still don’t know how it works,” Hairston said.
Adding: ”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 fibre, especially soluble fibre, may affect weight accumulation through abdominal fat deposits.”
How much exercise should you do to combat visceral fat?
According to Harvard Health, engaging in at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per day could help to target the harmful fat.
Studies single out aerobic exercise as the best type to beat the fat, for example, an analysis of 15 studies in 852 people compared how well different types of exercise reduced visceral fat without dieting.
For example, an analysis of 15 studies in 852 people compared how well different types of exercise reduced visceral fat without dieting.
The analysis suggested that combining regular aerobic exercise with a healthy diet is more effective at targeting visceral fat than doing either one alone.
Examples of aerobic exercises include:
- Brisk walking
- Water aerobics
- Riding a bike on level ground or with few hills
- Doubles tennis
- Pushing a lawn mower