Visceral fat, also known as belly fat, lies perilously close to vital organs, such as the liver and intestines. Among other things, carrying too much visceral fat makes you uniquely vulnerable to having a heart attack. According to Dr Hanieh Mohammadi, from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, the reason abdominal obesity is very common in people with a first heart attack is that it is closely linked with conditions that accelerate the clogging of arteries through atherosclerosis, a disease whereby plaque builds up inside your arteries.
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Dr Mohammadi was the lead researcher in a study that found that having excessive fat in this specific area also increases risk of subsequent heart attacks.
Reducing visceral fat is therefore imperative to protect your heart health.
So, how do I keep visceral fat at bay?
It is vital that you avoid unhealthy lifestyle decisions, although, in some cases, these can be less clear-cut.
Drinking alcohol, for example, can have both healthful and harmful effects.
When consumed in moderate amounts, particularly in relation to red wine, it may lower your risk of heart attacks and stroke, research shows.
However, some studies have shown that alcohol suppresses fat burning and that excess calories from alcohol are partly stored as belly fat — hence the term “beer belly”.
There appears to be a drinking threshold for belly fat gain.
One study found that men who consumed more than three drinks per day were 80 percent more likely to have excess belly fat than men who consumed less alcohol.
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What’s more, the quantity of alcohol consumed within a 24-hour period also appears to play a role.
In a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, daily drinkers who consumed less than one drink per day tended to have the least abdominal fat, while those who drank less often but consumed four or more drinks on “drinking days” were most likely to have excess belly fat.
Ideally, of course, you would swap out alcohol for healthier drinking choices altogether.
Certain beverages contain properties that have been shown to actively reduce visceral fat, although the effects may be modest.
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Drinking green tea has yielded promising results, for example.
The visceral fat-burning effect is attributed to catechins, plant compounds found in abundance in green tea.
Several studies on green tea catechins show that although the weight loss effects are modest, a significant percentage of fat loss is harmful visceral fat.
Other tips to burning visceral fat
Exercising regularly also offers a robust weapon against visceral fat.
According to Harvard Health, the starting point for bringing weight under control, in general, and combating abdominal fat, in particular, is engaging in regular moderate-intensity physical activity.
The health site advises doing at least 30 minutes per day (and perhaps up to 60 minutes per day) to control weight and lose belly fat.
“Strength training (exercising with weights) may also help fight abdominal fat,” notes the health body.
It adds: “Spot exercising, such as doing sit-ups, can tighten abdominal muscles, but it won’t get at visceral fat.”
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