Spare tire. Muffin top. Potbelly. Middle age spread. Shall I go on? We’ve all heard these terms to describe that area of the mid-section where extra belly fat resides. But many people don’t know just how dangerous stomach fat can be.
Stomach fat, also known as visceral fat, has been linked to a number of health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, breast cancer and colon cancer. Visceral fat is much more dangerous than the fat that lands on the hips, thighs and buttocks (known as subcutaneous fat). So much so that even someone considered slender but who carries a bit more fat around the belly may have a greater health risk than someone is actually obese, according to Dr. Kerry Stewart, professor of clinical exercise physiology at John Hopkins School of Medicine.
A ten-year study of Chinese adults revealed older people with extra belly fat had worse memory and less verbal fluency than adults who were considered “fit.”
So how can you blast belly fat and avoid such life-threatening health conditions? Below are a few ways to deflate that spare tire.
Eliminate Trans Fat
Recently admonished by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, trans fat (also known as “partially hydrogenated oil”) is found in vegetable shortening, margarine, cookies and other snack foods. And guess what? It goes right to your tummy.
Wake Forest University conducted a six-year study of male monkeys, which supports the attacks on trans fat. The monkeys were split into two groups – one group was fed a diet containing trans fats; the second group was fed only mono-saturated fat. While both groups received the same amount of calories and fat content, the group eating trans fat gained 7.2 percent body weight with a significant increase in visceral fat.
Quick Tip: Check nutritional ingredients closely to make sure you are avoiding dangerous trans fat.
Regular physical exercise has been proven again and again to reduce belly fat, and rather quickly at that.
A recent study at Duke University Medical Center found that subjects who remained sedentary for a mere six months experienced a nine percent increase in visceral fat, while those who walked an average of 20 miles per week lost both visceral and subcutaneous fat. Subjects who walked 12 miles per week neither gained nor lost weight.
Quick Tip: Try to get 30-60 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each day to prevent adding inches to your waistline.
How many hours of sleep do you get each night? Studies have shown that people who sleep less than four hours a night are a whopping 70 percent more likely to be overweight than those who get seven to nine hours of sleep.
You may be wondering – what does sleep have to do with weight? Lack of sleep lowers the protein leptin, which helps to suppress appetite, and inhibits the production of insulin which regulates blood sugar.
Quick Tip: Adjust your schedule to ensure you get a minimum of seven solid hours of sleep each night.
These days most of us carry way too much on our plates to maintain a healthy stress level. But having too much stress in your life can also cause you to carry too much on your middle as well. When you’re anxious, your body releases adrenaline, cortisol and insulin – a combination which has been associated with increased appetite and added fat to your waistline.
Quick Tip: Take time to relax throughout the day even if it’s just for a few minutes at a time and you’ll be one step closer to getting a handle on your tummy troubles.