Dr Zoe Williams discusses visceral fat on This Morning
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Visceral fat is body fat that is stored within the abdominal cavity – a large hollow space that includes the liver, stomach, small and large intestines. An accumulation of fat in this area can have grave health implications, including an increased risk of heart disease. Fortunately, you can eliminate the belly fat by making healthy dietary interventions.
Research suggests following an energy-restricted Mediterranean diet can lead to favourable weight loss outcomes.
A review investigated the impact of Mediterranean diet interventions on visceral fat.
A systematic literature search was conducted in the MEDLINE, CINAHL, EMBASE and Cochrane library databases.
To identify relevant studies, the researchers used search terms such as ‘Mediterranean Diet’, ‘Mediterranean dietary pattern’, ‘central obesity’ and ‘visceral fat’.
Eighteen articles met the eligibility criteria and linked visceral fat to a Mediterranean diet intervention.
Thirteen of the studies, totalling 7186 subjects (5168 subjects assigned to a Mediterranean Diet), reported a significant reduction in visceral fat with a Mediterranean-type diet.
However, seven out of these 13 interventions employed energy restriction, the researchers found.
What is an energy-restricted Mediterranean diet?
The Mediterranean diet is high in vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, beans, cereals, grains, fish, and unsaturated fats such as olive oil.
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It usually includes a low intake of meat and dairy foods.
An energy-restricted diet means eating fewer calories than normal so it involves restricting calorie intake when choosing the components of the Mediterranean diet.
“Very low calorie diets are for adults who are obese and severely obese, defined as having a body mass index (BMI) over 30 and 40, and need to quickly lose weight,” explains the NHS.
“They are not the first option to manage obesity and should not be routinely used.”
According to the health body, very low calorie diets should only be followed under medical supervision for a maximum of 12 weeks.
“Do not follow a very low calorie diet unless a GP has suggested it to you.”
Other key dietary tips for eliminating visceral fat
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.
Bupa says the following can help you to achieve this:
- Make sure you eat a balanced diet. Try to eat at least five portions of fruit and veg each day, and include higher-fibre starchy foods in meals
- 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.
According to the health body, protein can be a helpful way to lose weight because it makes you feel fuller than carbs and fat do.
Good sources include chicken breast, tuna, mackerel, salmon, eggs, milk, red lentils, chickpeas, brown bread, nuts and soya.
It is worth noting that a portion of protein is about as big as the palm of your hand.
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