By: Kristin Lund
“Fat is better in the butt than in the gut,” in the words of Nancy Bohannon, MD, FACP, FACE, Director of the Clinical Research Cardiovascular Risk Reduction Program in San Francisco. Dr. Bohannon explained in a recent CA-AADE conference that fat is supposed to be subcutaneous. But when you have too much fat, your body has nowhere to put it, so it starts parking it where it doesn’t belong-in the muscles or around the heart. This visceral fat, or belly fat, is the bad kind of fat, and it puts stress on the body and organs, including the heart.
But fiber may help reduce the propensity to pack on visceral fat. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has shown that consuming even a small amount of fiber can help young at-risk Latinos cut down their belly fat. The study, led by Dr. Jaimie N. Davis of the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, found that Latino adolescents and teens in Los Angeles who increased their fiber intake over a two-year period saw a four percent reduction in belly fat. At the same time, the kids who ate less fiber increased their belly fat by 21 percent. Although the study was conducted with Latino youth and it is unclear whether different ethnicities are more likely to have belly fat, it is understood that eating more fiber helps everyone’s overall health. In fact, the Mayo Clinic advises men under 50 years of age to ingest 38 grams of fiber a day. Women should consume 25 grams.
What is fiber?
The Mayo Clinic explains that “dietary fiber, also known as roughage or bulk, includes all parts of plant foods that your body can’t digest or absorb. Unlike other food components such as fats, proteins, or carbohydrates – which your body breaks down and absorbs – fiber isn’t digested by your body. Therefore, it passes relatively intact through your stomach, small intestine, colon, and out of your body.There are two kinds of fiber, insoluble and soluble fiber. Whole-wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts, and many vegetables are good sources of insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber is found in oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, barley, and psyllium.”
Dr. Davis told Reuters Health that even a small amount of fiber can make a big difference: just six grams a day can help reduce belly fat in young people. Even a kid can set a goal of eating a half cup of beans or a single whole-wheat tortilla, said Davis. Everyone, of course, not just the young, should read food labels carefully. “Whole wheat” is not the same as “whole grain” or “multigrain.” Items made with whole grain have the bran and germ of the grain and contain more fiber, magnesium, vitamin B6, vitamin E, and phytonutrients.
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