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There is no 'trick' to losing belly fat

Researchers say eating a heart-healthy diet offers your best chance

Photo (c) FredFroese - Getty Images
You've probably seen the claims on the internet – “a weird trick” to lose that belly fat. Or maybe a magic pill or diet that will accomplish the same thing.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has recently gone after marketers that it said were making unsubstantiated claims that supplements could slim down your waistline.

“At a price of up to $149.97, plus shipping and handling, for a 90-day supply, the only slimming going on here was from consumers’ wallets,” the FTC recently warned. “The most effective way to lose weight is to eat fewer calories and exercise more. Claims that you’ll lose weight without changing your habits simply aren’t true.”

Researchers say eating heart-healthy foods that are high in fiber and low in saturated fats may make it slightly easier to get rid of stubborn fat around your midsection. Writing in ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal, Kari D. Pilolla of the California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo says there is no miracle diet, food, nutrient, or bioactive component that will target abdominal fat.

Health concerns

However, Pilolla says there is a very good reason to concerned about too much belly fat – reasons that extend far beyond appearance. There are known health risks associated with abdominal obesity; according to the most recent data, 54 percent of Americans can be classified as abdominally obese.

“Independent of body weight, a larger waist circumference increases risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome," Pilolla writes.

That's because the fat stored in stomach muscles is believed to be more "metabolically active" than fat residing under the skin but above the abdominal muscles. Generally, women are considered abdominally obese if they have a waist circumference 34 inches or more. Men fit into that category if their waist is 40 inches or more.

What to eat

Pilolla is highly skeptical of claims that a certain pill or diet will “cure” belly fat. But she says eating more of the right foods can actually help. But the right foods, she says, aren't usually part of the internet diets.

The right foods include fresh fruits and vegetables. If you're looking for a specific diet to follow, Pilolla suggests the NIH-developed Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet and the Mediterranean-style diet.

Both diets include fruits, vegetables, fish, and whole grains while limiting unhealthy fats.

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