by Clint Carter
Worried that you’re harboring dangerous belly fat? Your waist circumference tends to be related to the amount of visceral fat you have, a study in the American Journal of Epidemiology found. The American Heart Association recommends keeping your waist below 40 inches. To check, wrap a tailor’s measuring tape snugly around your bare abdomen, just above your hip bones. Relax, exhale, and measure. If your number comes up a little elevated, here’s what you need to do to target visceral fat. (Want the latest health and nutrition advice delivered straight to your inbox? Sign up for our free Daily Dose newsletter.)
QUIT THE FRUCTOSE
A diet packed with fructose can make your belly bulge. In fact, adolescents in a Georgia Health Sciences University study who consumed the most fructose had about 20 percent more visceral fat than those who ate the least. Your move: Avoid fruit juice or foods that have added sugar or high-fructose corn syrup. Don’t worry about whole fruit, though. It accounts for less than 20 percent of the fructose in the typical American’s diet, say Emory University researchers.
SWEAT THE CARDIO
Resistance training is great for adding lean body mass, but cardio is better for burning visceral fat. In a Duke University study, people who trained on treadmills, elliptical trainers, and stationary bikes for 8 months (at the cardio equivalent of jogging 12 miles a week) lost about 8 percent of their visceral fat. Those who performed equally intense resistance workouts saw no change in visceral fat. (For more ways to sculpt every muscle in your body while torching body fat, check out The Workout That Gets You Shredded.)
EAT WHOLE GRAINS
Foods like barley and quinoa do more than just help fill you up. In a 2010 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people who ate three or more daily servings of whole grains had 10 percent less visceral fat than those who ate hardly any or no whole grains, even when the researchers adjusted for other lifestyle and diet factors. One benefit, they speculate, might come from prebiotic compounds that feed beneficial bacteria in your gut.
The right amount of shut-eye is key. A study in the journal Sleep showed that people who logged 6 to 7 hours a night had the lowest levels of visceral fat. Above or below that range was associated with more visceral fat, with the worst numbers going to those who slept less than 5 hours. Over a 5-year span, these sleepers put on visceral fat about five times faster than the healthy sleepers did.