Dr Zoe Williams discusses visceral fat on This Morning
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Body fat poses obvious risks to our health, but when it sits in the body’s midsection and wraps around internal organs like the liver and pancreas, it can cause unique complications. Over time visceral fat impairs the function of hormones like insulin, setting the body up for diabetes and other metabolic disturbances. Research has consistently shown that certain types of beverages contribute to the build-up of abdominal fat.
Visceral fat is a pernicious type of lipid that sits deep within the abdominal cavity and encases the vital organs can be “dangerous”, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Not only does it interfere with hormone production, but it also secretes low-inflammatory chemicals into the blood that hike the risk of a heart attack.
According to some studies, drinking sugar-sweetened beverages – such as soda, carbonated drinks, fruit juices and lemonade – daily could specifically increase visceral fat measurements over time.
A study of 1,003 people aged around 450 years of age, published in the Circulation in 2016, was able to quantify the effects of sugar-sweetened drinks on the body.
The researchers looked at both sugar-sweetened drinks and diet soda intake, but they did not find any association between diet soda and visceral fat adiposity.
All volunteers underwent a series of CT scans at the outset and at the end of the study to help researchers measure body fat changes.
The sample was split into four categories:
- Occasional drinkers (defined as drinking sugar-sweetened beverages once a month or less than once a week)
- Frequent drinkers (once a week or less than once a day)
- Those who drank at least one sugar-sweetened beverage daily.
Over a six-year follow-up period, scientists observed that visceral fat volume increased by:
- 658 centimetres cubed for non-drinkers
- 649 centimetres cubed for occasional drinkers
- 707 centimetres cubed for frequent drinkers
- 852 centimetres cubed for those who drank one beverage daily.
The researchers hope the study will serve as a reminder of the importance of following guidelines when drinking sweetened beverages.
“Our message to consumers is to follow the current dietary guidelines and to be mindful of how much sugar-sweetened beverages they drink,” they said at the time.
The two problematic components of sugar-sweetened drinks appear to be fructose and sucrose, according to past research.
These are typically found in body caffeinated and de-caffeinated soda, carbonate and non-carbonated drinks with added sugar, juices and lemonade.
Though 100 percent fruit juice is nutrient-dense, some fruit juices can be deceptive.
This was highlighted by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2012, which stated: “High consumption of fruit juice and other sources of fructose has been shown to promote weight gain and specifically visceral fat adiposity in adulthood.
It added: “Fruit juice and additional sources of fructose in food and beverage are well known to contribute to weight gain and abdominal adiposity in adults.”
It’s important to recognise that different types of fruit juices contain different quantities of sugar, fibre and other micronutrients.
Though 100 fruit juice packs a significant amount of sugar, it is unlikely to have the same health as sugar-sweetened drinks like soda.
In fact, drinking small amounts of 100 percent fruit juice can offer some protection against chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease.
Sugar-sweetened fruit juices, on the other hand, do not.
As a rule of thumb, adherence to a regular exercise routine and a balanced diet will offset the complications of visceral fat.
Replacing processed foods with polyunsaturated fats and wholegrain products will also offer a wide range of health benefits.
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