How to get rid of visceral fat: Cortisol & alcohol abuse major contributors to belly fat

Dr Zoe Williams discusses visceral fat on This Morning

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Visceral fat belongs to a club of conditions that can hike your risk of heart disease so reducing the amount you carry is paramount. The fat is more stubborn than subcutaneous fat, which lies just under the surface of the skin. Visceral fat neighbours vital organs in the body, such as the liver and intestines. Losing this type of fat can be a complicated matter but remembering two vital factors could help speed up the belly fat burning process easier.

“Cortisol supports overall health,” said Doctor Yufang Lin.

“It helps us wake up, gives us energy during the day and lowers at night to help us sleep and rest.”

The problem occurs when cortisol levels are constantly elevated which impacts both overall health and belly fat.

Stress is one of the biggest triggers when it comes to the adrenal glands producing cortisol.

Evidence shows that high levels of cortisol increase a person’s appetite circulating insulin and promoting abdominal fat storage.

Glucocorticoids and cortisol redistribute fat towards a person’s stomach producing more of a protruding belly even if classified as healthy and produces higher levels of visceral fat.

Chronically stressed people that have increased cortisol are likely to develop abdominal obesity and laboratory studies confirm a clear correlation between cortisol levels and the deposition of deep abdominal fat.

“Studies have looked at this relationship between cortisol and weight extensively and have found a significant link between cortisol levels and increased weight, specifically that stubborn visceral fat in both men and women,” added Doctor Cole.

“In fact, one study looked at the cortisol levels of women and found that those with high levels of visceral fat had significantly greater cortisol spikes during times of stress as well as for a full hour after the stressful event had passed.”

While drinking small amounts of alcohol, in particular red wine, has been found to have its health benefits, drinking too much alcohol can harm your health and your waistline.

Several research papers have shown that drinking too much alcohol may encourage fat to be stored as visceral fat.

One study, which involved 8,603 Korean adults, found people who drank the most alcohol also had the largest waist circumference, which can be a major marker of visceral fat.

Another study, that looked at 87 women, found a moderate alcohol intake was also linked to carrying more visceral fat.

Excessively drinking alcohol can lead to an increase in abdominal fat warns leading health experts.

“Research has uncovered that alcohol especially decreases fat burn in the belly,” says Doctor Pamela M. Peeke.

She added: “That’s why you never hear about ‘beer hips’ – you hear about a ‘beer belly’.

“It temporarily impairs the prefrontal cortex, the smarty-pants part of the brain that allows you to think clearly and rein in impulsivity.

“So, after a certain amount of alcohol, you’re going to feel yourself not caring and letting it rip with food and probably drinks.”

If you want to try cutting down on the amount you are drink, then here are five practical tips from The British Dietetic Association:

  • Replace high calorie mixer for a lower calorie one e.g. low calorie tonic or diet cola and alternate drinks with water/diet/low calorie drinks
  • Don’t top up the glass before it’s finished so the volume consumed can be monitored more accurately
  • Let your friends and family know you are trying to cut down so they can support you
  • Avoid salty snacks such as crisps and salted nuts because these make you thirstier (as well as being high in fat and salt)
  • Think about the strength of your drink – choose beers or lagers that contain less alcohol.

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