Get Moving and Fiber Up to Lose That Spare Tire
For each 10-gram-per-day increase in soluble fiber, the rate of visceral fat accumulation went down by almost 4%. Exercise also helped keep visceral fat down over time.
Carrying extra pounds around the midsection can raise the risk of developing diabetes. But what makes fat accumulate there, instead of on your caboose? It turns out that certain dietary factors and exercise could predict fat distribution over the years.
An unhealthy apple
When it comes to disease risk, having an appleshape is less desirable than a pear shape, where fat is concentrated more around the thighs and buttocks. Extra abdominal fat--especially the stuff that surrounds the organs, called visceral fat--increases the risk of developing insulin resistance, which is a forerunner to diabetes. The fat that lies just below the skin's surface (subcutaneous fat), doesn't seem to be as strongly linked to diabetes risk.
In an effort to better understand what contributes to abdominal fat, researchers involved in the Insulin Resistance and Atherosclerosis Family Study (IRAS) asked 1,114 Hispanic Americans and African Americans (average age 42 years at the beginning of the study) about lifestyle aspects including dietary patterns, smoking history, and physical activity. The participants' height, weight, and abdominal fat mass (calculated by CT scan) were measured at the beginning of the study and five years later.
More fiber, please
Researchers found that the people who ate more soluble fiber and engaged in regular exercise were less likely to gain visceral abdominal fat over the years, regardless of changes in BMI (body mass index). For each 10-gram-per-day increase in soluble fiber, the rate of visceral fat accumulation went down by almost 4%.This effect was most pronounced in African American men. Soluble fiber didn't seem to affect the way subcutaneous fat was deposited around the body.
Exercise also helped keep visceral fat accumulation down over the years. Engaging in vigorous physical activity (defined as participating in exercise that makes you sweat, or increases the heart rate or breathing rate) one to four times per week had a 7.4% decrease in the rate of visceral fat accumulation and a 3.6% decrease in subcutaneous fat accumulation.
Current smokers tended to have slightly less accumulation of subcutaneous fat, but smoking status didn't affect how much visceral fat the people accumulated.
"Although the fiber-obesity relationship has been extensively studied, the relationship between fiber and specific fat depots has not," commented the study's authors. "Our study is valuable because it provides specific information on how dietary fiber, specifically soluble fiber, may affect weight accumulation, specifically through abdominal fat deposits."
Changing for good
Adopting a new way of eating and committing to a regular exercise routine can seem overwhelming, but little changes can add up to big health benefits over time.
Kimberly Beauchamp, ND, received her doctoral degree from Bastyr University, the nation's premier academic institution for science-based natural medicine. She co-founded South County Naturopaths in Wakefield, RI, where she practiced whole family care with an emphasis on nutritional counseling, herbal medicine, detoxification, and food allergy identification and treatment. Her blog, Eat Happy, helps take the drama out of healthy eating with real food recipes and nutrition news that you can use. Dr. Beauchamp is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.