A new study gives more reasons for tucking into soluble fibre.
It may be the fat that you can see that bothers you, but science has been telling us for a while now that it’s the hidden fat in our bodies that’s the most dangerous. Visceral fat surrounds our vital organs and protects them. However, if you have too much of this fat it can cause serious health problems.
A study carried out at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina has reported a simple way to target and reduce that hidden visceral fat. We need to eat more soluble fibre, found in vegetables, fruit and beans, and do more moderate activity.
The study looked at 1,114 people aged from 18 to 81, over the course of five years. At the beginning of the study all the participants had a CT (computerised tomography) scan. This is the only way to accurately measure how much subcutaneous and visceral fat we have. All the subjects also had a physical exam and answered an extensive questionnaire on their lifestyle. Five years later they went through the same process again.
The results of the study showed that for every extra 10 grams of soluble fibre the participants consumed each day, visceral fat was reduced by 3.7 percent over five years. And increasing the amount of moderate activity resulted in a 7.4 percent decrease in the rate of visceral fat accumulated over five years.
“We know that a higher rate of visceral fat is associated with high blood pressure, diabetes and fatty liver disease,” said Kristen Hairston, MD, assistant professor of internal medicine at Wake Forest Baptist, and the lead researcher on the study. “Our study found that making a few simple changes can have a big health impact.”
Hairston explained that you can add 10 grams of soluble fibre to your diet by eating two small apples or 150g of green peas. Moderate activity involves exercising vigorously for 30 minutes, two to four times a week (it’s important to check with your GP before suddenly starting any new exercise regime).
“There is mounting evidence that eating more soluble fibre and increasing exercise reduces visceral or belly fat, although we still don’t know how it works,” Hairston said. “Although the fibre-obesity relationship has been extensively studied, the relationship between fibre and specific fat deposits has not. Our study is valuable because it provides specific information on how dietary fibre, especially soluble fibre, may affect weight accumulation though abdominal fat deposits.”
“Anything that reduces visceral fat is a good thing,” says Ursula Arens, spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association (BDA). “Eating more fibre generally is a long-running health story. There’s a very practical, common-sense understanding that if you eat three apples a day, for instance, you’ll feel fuller, and this will help to reduce the amount of food that you eat.”
“Good sources of soluble fibre include oats, which you’ll find in porridge, and to some degree in muesli. You’ll also find it in fruit and vegetables. For instance apples, strawberries, grapes, pears and peas, and any type of beans, including baked beans.”