In my busy practice, one of the most common complaints I hear is, “Dr. Rosenberg, how can I get rid of all this belly fat?” Well, I’d like to share with you some exciting results of a new study out of the University of Southern California. The study found that by just adding 6 grams more of fiber to your diet everyday you can shrink your belly fat significantly. In the participants studied, it was found that belly fat increased by a whopping 21% in those who ate less fiber, and decreased by 4% in those who ate more fiber.
Let me tell you a little about why we should be concerned about reducing belly fat. It is the most dangerous type of fat to have as it surrounds all your major organs like the liver, pancreas, small and large intestines, and heart which can cause fatty liver disease, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and stroke. In addition, after age 40, belly fat can also contribute to your risk of developing Alzheimer’s dementia.
It’s important to know that belly fat is an equal opportunity health problem for both men and women. However, men have the unfair advantage in gaining weight around their bellies where woman tend to gain weight all over. For that reason, men are at higher risk for the diseases associated with that spare tire. So, if you are overweight, you need to:
- Reduce your overall weight with a high fiber, lower fat diet.
- Exercise 30 minutes a day. Aerobic exercise burns belly fat first!
- Do moderate strength training 3 times a week. Builds muscle which helps you burn overall fat.
Too answer the question from above here’s an easy method to determine if the amount of belly fat you have is too much.
- Get a tailor’s cloth tape measure. Place it around your bare abdomen, just above your hipbone.
- For men: Over 40 inches is too much.
- For women: Over 35 inches is too much.
How Fiber Helps Rid Belly Fat
Now that you know if you have too much belly fat, I’d like to briefly explain to you how eating more fiber can help you get rid of it. First, let me tell you what fiber is and how it fights disease associated with belly fat:
- There are 2 types of fiber that you need everyday to maintain health, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber includes oat bran, barley, seeds, beans, lentils, and some fruits and vegetables. It attracts water and creates a gel that can move easily through your intestines. Insoluble fiber includes wheat bran, vegetables, and whole grains. It speeds up “transit time”, the amount of time it takes for digested food to leave your intestines.
- Fiber helps to sweep cholesterol, fats and toxins out of your intestines which decreases cholesterol in your blood stream and prevents buildup of toxic wastes. It also helps you absorb vitamins and minerals correctly. Adequate fiber intake remedies constipation and belly bloat which can make your belly appear larger.
- Fiber, especially the soluble type, helps slow down the absorption rate of carbohydrates (sugars) into your blood stream. Your pancreas then does not pump out too much insulin thereby preventing insulin resistance which can lead to diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
The National Cancer Institute recommends that you eat between 25-35 grams of fiber a day. You must read labels on food packages to determine how much fiber is in the food that you eat.
As we age, if we don’t stay physically active, or if we consume less fiber than is recommended, we contribute to gaining belly fat and putting ourselves at risk for disease. But, the good news is, research shows that if you increase your fiber intake, along with your exercise level, you’ll go a long way in achieving a healthy body weight, decreasing unhealthy belly fat and the risk of disease along with it.
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.