Two of the most difficult areas of the body to reduce fat are the back and belly, otherwise known as visceral fat.
Over the years, food trends have come and gone and there have been several well-meaning guesses as to which foods are the absolute worst when it comes to belly and back fat. But as “good” fatty foods like avocados and nuts begin to replace non-fat and low-fat diets that are often still high in sugar, one thing has become apparent: there is one group of foods that still stands out as absolutely terrible when it comes to contributing to visceral fat.
First, it’s important to note why back and belly fat are such a hot topic. Aside from getting in the way of your weight goals, extra fat in this area of the body is linked to several health conditions.
According to Harvard Health Publishing, “Visceral fat has been linked to metabolic disturbances and increased risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. In women, it is also associated with breast cancer and the need for gallbladder surgery.”
Some people — those with so-called apple body shapes — may be more prone to visceral fat, but what we eat has a lot to do with the amount of weight we put on around our backs and bellies.
And, as it turns out, there is one food type that is the absolute worst offender when it comes to visceral fat: trans fats.
Trans fats are found in a variety of foods — including those made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. According to researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, trans fats are directly related to higher levels of fat around the abs and back.
"Diets rich in trans fat cause a redistribution of fat tissue into the abdomen and lead to a higher body weight even when the total dietary calories are controlled," Lawrence L. Rudel, Ph.D., professor of pathology and biochemistry and head of the Lipid Sciences Research Program, told Science Daily.
Trans fat is found in foods as disparate as frozen pizza, coffee creamer, and fast food. But one more obvious source of trans fat is the snack foods that you just know aren’t adding value to your diet, but that are so tasty you can’t help but indulge in them.
Examples of these types of snacks include crackers, cookies, and foods fried in partially hydrogenated oils.
One study performed on monkeys over a six-year period found that those who ate a Western-style diet consisting of foods with trans fat had a 7.2 percent body weight increase compared with a 1.8 percent overall increase in monkeys that ate foods with monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil.
What’s even more shocking: researchers say that weight all went to the monkeys’ abdomens.
"We measured the volume of fat using CT," Kylie Kavanagh, D.V.M. told Science Daily. "They deposited 30 percent more fat in their abdomen."
One of the best diets to follow if stubborn belly and back fat is a concern is a Mediterranean diet rich in monounsaturated fats. This type of diet honors plant-based foods like leafy vegetables, legumes, and nuts, as well as olive oil that replaces butter and fresh herbs as an alternative to salt.
Making changes to your diet and staying away from trans fats in processed foods like cookies, cakes, and crackers will set you on the right track toward burning visceral fat and getting even more healthy.