Bye Bye belly fat
Thursday, August 28, 2014
Flat Belly Diet: Fact or Fiction?
By Connie Brichford | Medically reviewed by Cynthia Haines, MD
Do certain foods help you maintain a slim waist?
Chances are you’ve seen more than a few ads online for "flat belly diets," or diets that promise to reduce your waistline and melt away abdominal fat if you eat and avoid certain foods. Menopausal women are often the intended audience if these diet ads. But is there any truth to their diet claims? Can having a flat belly really be as easy as eating the right combination of foods?
"Absolutely not," says Alexa Schmitt, RD, a clinical nutritionist at Massachusetts General Hospital. "There is no particular food that causes excess belly fat," she says. Fat develops on the body when "calories that are not utilized as energy become stored as fat." These excess calories can come from any food; there is no one special food that is responsible.
As for where fat is stored and what factors affect it, Schmitt says fat can accumulate anywhere on a body. "It’s genetically determined," she says. Menopause does affect fat accumulation, but researchers are still debating why this happens. As we age, our metabolism slows down, which means that we use up energy from food at a slower rate. One study found that as women approach the age of menopause, their rate of physical activity tends to decline. A slower metabolism, combined with the tendency to get less exercise, is a perfect recipe for weight gain. And heredity affects how you store this added weight: If your mother stores weight in her midsection, you might find your own body responding similarly.
Sorting Out Flat Belly Diet Claims
Some foods get blamed for excess abdominal fat, while others are touted as the fastest route to a flat belly. Here is a quick look:
Corn Syrup. Corn syrup is controversial, Schmitt says. Lipogenesis is the term that describes the way that carbohydrates are turned into fat, and there is evidence to suggest that fructose, the type of sugar in corn syrup, is metabolized differently from glucose, found in the white sugar you buy at the grocery store. However, though we know that the body converts fructose into fat differently from the way it converts glucose into fat, there is no evidence to suggest that this difference targets a particular body part.
Alleged flat belly foods. Avocados, olives, vegetable oils, and nuts have been hailed as miracle foods that can reduce abdominal fats. Though there is plenty of evidence linking these foods to such benefits as lower heart disease risk, there is no evidence to suggest that they will target your belly and melt away abdominal fat.
Whole grains. One small but tantalizing study found that obese people on a reduced-calorie diet who ate only whole grains lost more fat in the abdominal region than those who ate refined grains. The study of 50 people, published in 2008 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, may point the way toward further research.
Your Best Action Plan for a Flat Belly
If avoiding or consuming certain foods doesn’t get rid of fat, what will?
Monitor your caloric intake. Eating too many high-calorie foods can leave you with more calories than you need. Fat accumulation is the result of consuming more food than you need to fuel you through the day, explains Schmitt.
Watch portion size. According to Schmitt, no foods are off limits, per se, but we need to consider portion size and frequency. Choosing red meat less than twice a week can lower our overall fat intake and has the added benefit of keeping cholesterol levels in check. This is also true for women around the time of menopause. As our metabolic rates decline, we can help prevent weight gain by consuming fewer calories at each meal.
Eat the right kind of fat. Schmitt says we need to limit our intake of saturated fats — found in foods such as red meat, cream, and butter — to less than 10 percent of our diet. Foods such as fish, olive oil, avocado, and walnuts are great sources of unsaturated fats, which can work to lower your levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, the "bad" kind.
Exercise regularly. Exercise can help you use more energy and burn off accumulated fat. The study on physical activity also found good news for menopausal women: Women who exercise more gain less weight during menopause; and even women who exercise less can slow and reverse their weight gain by increasing their exercise frequency.
The flat belly myth is pervasive in exercise as well, Schmitt says. While exercise will help you burn fat over your entire body, it all comes back to genetics, which determines where you store fat, and the areas that will tone up first — no matter how many special crunches or push-ups you do.
So eat a healthy, balanced diet, exercise, and don't sweat how flat your belly is.
I am so glad to see that belly crunches and sit ups are hype. I have watched my belly fat go from just doing my walk everyday.