Exercise is the best way to reduce belly fat, new research concludes.
Scientists compared the effects of exercise against medicines for reducing visceral (belly) fat.
The results showed that people lost more visceral fat per pound of total body weight lost.
Visceral fat is the fat that lies deep in the body and is linked to developing heart disease, diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
Dr Ian J. Neeland, the study’s first author, said:
“Visceral fat can affect local organs or the entire body system.
Systemically it can affect your heart and liver, as well as abdominal organs.
When studies use weight or body mass index as a metric, we don’t know if the interventions are reducing fat everywhere in the body, or just near the surface.”
The study was a review of 17 separate randomised controlled trials.
Together they followed 3,602 people for up to a six-month period.
The results showed that both exercise and medicines reduced visceral fat, but exercise worked better.
Dr Neeland said:
“The location and type of fat is important.
If you just measure weight or BMI, you can underestimate the benefit to your health of losing weight.
Exercise can actually melt visceral fat.”
Fat used to be seen as inactive by doctors, but now it is thought of as active in disease processes.
Around 40 percent of Americans are obese.
Dr Neeland said:
“Some people who are obese get heart disease, diabetes, or metabolic syndrome—and others don’t.
Our study suggests that a combination of approaches can help lower visceral fat and potentially prevent these diseases.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings (Rao et al., 2019).