Dr Zoe Williams discusses visceral fat on This Morning
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Carrying an excess of visceral fat can cause a cascade of serious health problems. That’s because the fat lies dangerously close to internal organs, such as the liver and intestines. It can cause complications that can raise your risk of chronic conditions. For example, researchers have found that visceral secretes a protein called retinol-binding protein 4 (RBP4), which has been shown to increase resistance to insulin – a precursor to developing type 2 diabetes.
Fortunately, you can reduce visceral fat by altering your lifestyle and research has alighted upon some effective solutions.
According to a study published in the journal JAMA, supplementing with dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) can help to banish belly fat.
DHEA is a hormone that your body naturally produces in the adrenal gland. DHEA helps produce other hormones, including testosterone and oestrogen.
A synthetic version of DHEA is available as a tablet, capsule, powder, topical cream and gel.
According to the study researchers, DHEA supplementation has been shown to reduce the accumulation of abdominal visceral fat and protect against insulin resistance in laboratory animals, but it is hitherto not known whether DHEA decreases abdominal obesity in humans.
The researchers sought to address this gap in knowledge by testing whether DHEA replacement therapy decreases abdominal fat and improves insulin action in elderly persons.
The Randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial ran for three years.
Participants were randomly assigned to receive 50 mg of DHEA or a matching placebo for six months.
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Visceral fat changes were recorded using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI); a type of scan that uses strong magnetic fields and radio waves to produce detailed images of the inside of the body.
What did the researchers find out?
Compared to the placebo, DHEA therapy induced significant decreases in the visceral fat area.
“DHEA replacement could play a role in prevention and treatment of the metabolic syndrome associated with abdominal obesity,” the researchers concluded.
Metabolic syndrome is the medical term for a combination of diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension) and obesity.
Other key tips
It is worth noting that there is no single effective weapon against visceral fat – you must commit to a healthy lifestyle.
If you want to reduce your belly fat, you’ll need to burn more calories (energy) than you consume, and eat the right kinds of food.
According to Bupa, eating protein is an effective way to achieve this dietary goal.
The health body explains: “Protein can be a helpful way to lose weight because it makes you feel fuller than carbs and fat do.
It adds: “So if you include a lean source of protein, such as skinless white chicken, in your meals you may find that you’re not as hungry, and so eat less.”
You can incorporate protein into every meal.
Good sources include chicken breast, tuna, mackerel, salmon, eggs, milk, red lentils, chickpeas, brown bread, nuts and soya.
“Alternatively, there are lots of protein products on the market, such as supplements and powders, but if you decide to use these make sure you have a trained sports dietitian or nutritionist supervising your diet,” adds Bupa.
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