Q: What is belly fat and how can I get rid of it?

A: Ugh. Belly fat. Nobody likes it, but for many of us it’s a daily struggle. As we reach middle age, we often see the proportion of fat to body weight increase — both sexes suffer from it women even more so… We have even come up with nicknames for it… spare tire, pot belly, beer gut…

It’s OK to make fun of it, but research has proven that it’s no joke. As our waistlines grow, so do our health risks. Belly fat is abdominal, or visceral fat and it lies deep within the abdominal cavity, where it pads the spaces between our abdominal organs. Visceral fat has been linked to metabolic disturbances and increased risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and even blood clotting… In women, it is also associated with breast cancer and gallbladder problems.

THE GOOD NEWS…

Visceral fat can be controlled with exercise and diet, and the benefits are many like lowering blood pressure and improved cholesterol levels.

With at least 30 minutes per day of moderate exercise (and perhaps up to 60 minutes per day) to control weight, you can make your spare tire disappear. Strength training (exercising with weights) may also help fight abdominal fat. Sit-ups are great and can tighten abdominal muscles, but they won’t get at visceral fat.

Diet is also important. Watch your portions and pick the complex carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) and lean protein over simple carbohydrates such as white bread, refined-grain pasta, and sugary drinks. Replacing saturated fats found in fatty beef and cheese and trans fats found in many fried foods with polyunsaturated fats like nuts, fish, avocado and olive oil can also help.

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