5 Best Ways to Reduce Visceral Fat

Back in the day, a certain cereal commercial encouraged viewers to change their habits if they could “pinch an inch” of fat at their waistline. Today, we know that kind of fat (known as subcutaneous fat) has the potential to be unsightly, but it’s the fat you can’t see (or pinch) that’s downright dangerous. That’s belly fat, technically known as visceral fat, which lies deep within the abdomen, near vital organs like the liver, stomach, intestines, and pancreas, and it releases inflammatory substances that increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer. Here are five science-backed ways to slash visceral fat. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You Have “Long” COVID and May Not Even Know It.

woman weighing herself overweight on scale

The easiest way to reduce visceral fat is to lose weight. “Weight loss alone can effectively reduce visceral fat,” says W. Scott Butsch, MD, an obesity medicine specialist with the Cleveland Clinic. “By losing 10% of your body weight, you may lose up to 30% of your body fat.” 

healthy vegetable plant based bowl tomatoes carrots avocado brown rice cucumbers leafy greens

A diet high in added sugar and simple carbohydrates (which break down quickly into sugar) is a shortcut to belly fat. Cutting those junky carbs can help you lose it.

“​​Fructose, or sugar, causes fat cells to mature faster, specifically in the visceral fat,” says the Cleveland Clinic. “A diet filled with fructose-containing sodas or drinks not only increases your calorie intake, but it impacts how the belly fat develops.” 

So ditch the sugar-sweetened drinks, fast food, processed foods and refined grains. Choose more fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, fiber, nuts and whole grains. 

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Senior woman and young woman walking outdoors by sea pier

Following a healthy diet is important, but dieting alone won’t reduce belly fat. 

Exercise seems to work off belly fat in particular because it reduces circulating levels of insulin—which would otherwise signal the body to hang on to fat—and causes the liver to use up fatty acids, especially those nearby visceral fat deposits,” says Kerry Stewart, Ed.D., director of clinical and research physiology at Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Experts say moderate physical activity combined with strength training seems to work best for burning belly fat, and it’s better to exercise longer than to work out harder. 

The American Cancer Society and American Heart Association say you should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (like brisk walking, dancing or gardening) or 75 minutes of vigorous activity (like running, cycling or swimming) every week. Remember, that’s for starters—to lose weight, more activity is better.

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Half the battle of the bulge is won or lost when you’re asleep. Researchers at Wake Forest University found that dieters who slept five hours or less every night put on 2 1/2 times more belly fat than people who got adequate sleep, meaning seven to nine hours a night.

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Relaxed happy young man resting having nap on comfortable couch breathing fresh air

Unfortunately, “stress belly” is a real thing. Excessive stress causes the body to produce more cortisol, a.k.a. “the stress hormone,” to help it cope with the strain. One of the things cortisol tells the body to do? Hold on to fat around the abdomen in case of emergency. This can cause a bulging midsection even in otherwise thin people. To fight stress belly, go to the source—reduce stress with exercise, relaxation techniques and mindfulness, and talk to your doctor if you need help. And to protect your life and the lives of others, don’t visit any of these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.

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