Potbelly, spare tire—or maybe your six-pack abs have turned into a pony keg. Whatever you call it, you need only look around you to know that abdominal fat is the most common type of obesity. It is also the most dangerous. Fat, or adipose tissue, on the hips, thighs, arms, and elsewhere may not be any prettier, but it poses less of a health risk. That’s because it’s stored right under the skin. Most belly fat (visceral adipose tissues or VAT) lies within the abdominal cavity, surrounding the intestines, liver, kidneys, and other organs. Excess fat in this area is linked to increased risk of diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, even cancer and dementia.
The good news is that visceral fat is responsive to weight loss interventions. I’m not talking about spot reduction—there’s no such thing. However, when you do lose weight, abdominal fat goes first. So what can you do?
For starters, eat less and exercise more. As stored fat is mobilized for energy, those adipocytes in your belly will be the first to shrink. Regarding diet, my experience has been that a low-carbohydrate diet works best. It puts your body in a fat-burning mode and helps control appetite by cutting down on blood sugar swings that cause food cravings.
Other lifestyle factors include sleep—or lack thereof. People who get inadequate sleep tend to be heavier. Furthermore, untreated sleep apnea is clearly linked with obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. If you’re struggling with any of these conditions, especially if you snore, talk to your doctor about getting tested for sleep apnea.
Consider supplements. When it comes to supplements for weight loss, one of the most impressive is green tea. In addition to its immune and cardiovascular benefits, it is a great aid in the fat-burning process. Resveratrol, the phytonutrient in red wine that has gained fame as an anti-aging agent, may also be helpful. I also recommend the herbal extract Irvingia gabonensis. It facilitates weight loss, helps correct leptin levels, and improves many of the symptoms of metabolic syndrome.
As you lose your belly fat, other areas of your health will perk up as well. Your blood sugar and blood pressure will go down, and your cholesterol, triglycerides, and C-reactive protein levels will improve. Your risk of heart attack, stroke, heart failure, cancer, and liver disease will all decrease. And, as an added bonus, you’ll look and feel better than you have in years.