The Skinny on Stubborn Belly Fat
The Skinny on Stubborn Belly Fat

There's more than one type of fat in our bodies (one of them you can't even see!), and what you don't know about them could seriously damage your health.

When the Flat Belly Diet experts talk about belly fat, it's important to note that there are two types: subcutaneous and visceral. Subcutaneous fat is the fat you can see, the 'inch you can pinch'. The term 'subcutaneous' means beneath the skin, and it's no secret that this fat resides all over our bodies. In some places, such as your thighs, underarms and belly, it may be thicker than in others, but for the most part, it's everywhere—even on the soles of your feet.

A moderate amount of subcutaneous fat is essential for life. For one thing, it keeps you warm in the winter. But too much can be bad, such as when it becomes a visible sign of being overweight or obese. Worse, it can make us lose confidence in our body image, and studies show that this loss of self-esteem can lead to even more dangerous health behaviours. The good news is that subcutaneous fat responds immediately to the Flat Belly Diet.

RELATED: 10 Flat Belly Shortcuts

Another factor that distinguishes the Flat Belly Diet is that it targets visceral fat, which is much more dangerous and difficult to lose. Visceral fat gets its name from viscera, which refers to the internal organs in the abdomen; such fat resides deep within the torso, wrapping itself around your heart, liver and other major organs. In fact, you can be relatively thin and still have too much visceral fat. That's why some refer to it as 'hidden' belly fat. But excess visceral fat can subtract years from your life.

How can this happen? Carrying excess visceral fat is one of a complex group of symptoms collectively called metabolic syndrome, or syndrome X. Other symptoms are high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and elevated insulin levels. Having just one of these conditions contributes to your risk of serious disease.

Visceral fat has also been linked to a long list of adverse health conditions, including:

• Stroke and heart disease

• Diabetes

• Breast cancer

• Dementia

One of the main reasons visceral fat is so dangerous is because of its role in inflammation: a natural immune response that research has lately tied to almost every chronic disease. In fact, according to a study published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, visceral fat may have a greater impact on the cardiovascular health of older women than overall obesity does. Danish researchers found that women with excessive belly fat had a greater risk of atherosclerosis (a condition in which fatty material collects in the walls of the arteries) than those whose fat resided mostly in their hips, thighs and buttocks. Here's why:

The proximity of visceral fat to your liver boosts production of LDL ('bad') cholesterol, which collects in your arteries and forms plaque, a waxy substance.
• Over time, this plaque becomes inflamed, causing swelling that narrows the arteries, restricting the passage of blood.
• The narrowing passageways increase blood pressure, straining your heart and potentially damaging tiny capillaries.
• The inflammation further increases your risk of blood clots, which can break loose and cause stroke.

Visceral fat also contributes to insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes. With insulin resistance, cells do not respond to insulin, which forces the pancreas to increase production to clear the bloodstream of glucose. Over time, insulin resistance can lead to full-blown diabetes, which can severely compromise the circulatory system and cause long-term problems with vision, memory and the healing of wounds.

RELATED: Top 5 Belly Flattening Foods

A study by US-based healthcare organization Kaiser Permanente comparing people with different levels of belly fat showed that those with the most belly fat were 145 per cent more likely to develop dementia than those with the least amount. Why? Again, the answer is inflammation, researchers suggest.

These science-based studies should be reason enough to motivate you to forever shed your belly fat. But even if you reduce kilojoules and exercise regularly, you can still have too much visceral fat. Taking its focus from this research, the Flat Belly Diet! aims to minimize both visceral and subcutaneous fat by having you eat the right kind of fat. Studies show that a core group of healthy fats, monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs, pronounced moo-fahs), are key to shedding both types of fat. MUFAs provide the basis for the Flat Belly Diet.

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