Healthy living * Weight loss

Two apples a day keeps the belly away

Two apples a day helps keep the belly away Fruit fibres can reduce "deep belly fat"

Fat deep in the belly surrounding the vital organs, or visceral fat, is a greater threat to your health than the fat found close to the skin. But most people's weight loss efforts are aimed at shifting the beer bellies and muffin tops rather than this deep belly fat.

Now a new study has found that it is not that hard to make a big impact on visceral fat. Take some moderate exercise and eat fruit and vegetables, and for every 10g increase in soluble fibre eaten each day, visceral fat was reduced by 3.7 percent over five years.

An increase in moderate activity resulted in a 7.4 percent decrease in the rate of visceral fat accumulation over the same time period.

Soluble fibres are found in vegetables, fruit and beans, and 10g can be obtained by eating two small apples, one cup of green peas and one-half cup of pinto beans, close to the "five-a-day" advocated by public health campaigners.

As study leader Kristen Hairston of Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center explains: "We know that a higher rate of visceral fat is associated with high blood pressure, diabetes and fatty liver disease. Our study found that making a few simple changes can have a big health impact."

About the study

Over 1,000 people were assessed at the start of the study by a physical exam, an extensive questionnaire on lifestyle issues, and a CT scan, the only accurate way to measure how much subcutaneous and visceral fat the participants had. This assessment was repeated five years later.

The results showed that an increase in soluble fibre intake was linked to a decreased rate of visceral fat accumulation. No reduction was found for subcutaneous fat.

Commenting on the results, Dr Hairston said: "There is mounting evidence that eating more soluble fibre and increasing exercise reduces visceral or belly fat, although we still don't know how it works."

"Our study is valuable because it provides specific information on how dietary fibre, especially soluble fibre, may affect weight accumulation through abdominal fat deposits."

Details of the study are published in the online edition of the journal Obesity.

This article was published on Tue 28 June 2011

Image © Bruce Robbins -

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