by Kevin DiDonato, MS, CSCS, CES
Fiber intake has been associated with improvements in overall health.
In fact, fiber has been associated with improvements in heart health, intestinal health, blood sugar control, and even appetite suppression.
However, one type of fiber recently has been shown to shrink your waistline – especially as it relates to visceral adipose tissue.
Visceral adipose tissue, which is fat that surrounds your internal organs, has been shown to release pro-inflammatory cytokines, increase your heart disease risk, diabetes risk, and your risk for developing metabolic syndrome.
Now, according to a study published in the journal Obesity, soluble fiber has been shown to reduce visceral adipose tissue, in combination with physical activity, over a five-year period.
Let me explain…
Different Types of Fiber
There are two different types of fiber that you can ingest: soluble and insoluble fiber.
Insoluble fiber, which cannot be digested, travels through your digestive system and takes on water similar to a sponge.
Since it is undigested, insoluble fiber is able to take on undigested food particles through, and out, of your intestines.
Soluble fiber, on the other hand, when digested, turns into a viscous gel-like substance that wraps itself around food particles.
This allows for slower digestion of the food particles, plus a slow emptying into your intestines.
By slowing gastric emptying, you could also prevent the rapid rise in blood sugar, which could raise insulin levels.
Both types of fiber are important; however, in this study, soluble fiber was shown to be more effective at lowering visceral fat tissue compared to insoluble fiber.
The authors of this study aimed to see which lifestyle factors were associated with five-year changes in abdominal fat stores.
They recruited men (339 African Americans and 775 Hispanic men) who were between 18 and 81 years of age from the IRAS (Insulin Resistance and Atherosclerosis Family Study).
The researchers assessed visceral and subcutaneous belly fat through the use of CT scanning of the L1/L4 vertebrae.
The researchers also assessed physical activity and dietary intake through the use of a self-reported vigorous activity log and a self-reported food frequency questionnaire, respectively.
Other assessments included baseline and ending measurements of: family structure, fat accumulation over five years, smoking, physical activity, total calories, intake of fatty acids (polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, and saturated fats), percent of calories from sweets, and fiber intake (soluble and insoluble).
From their data, they showed that soluble fiber and physical activity were inversely associated with visceral adipose tissue.
In fact, they showed that with every 10 grams of fiber, there was a corresponding 3.7 percent decrease in visceral adipose tissue (subcutaneous belly fat was not affected).
In regards to physical activity, they showed that there was a 7.4 percent decrease in visceral adipose and a 3.6 percent decrease in subcutaneous belly fat due to increased vigorous physical activity.
They also noted that total calorie intake was also inversely related to visceral adipose tissue.
From their results, they concluded that physical activity and soluble fiber intake was associated with lower visceral adipose tissue stores over a five-year period.
Although this research shows promise for fiber intake, this study needs to be replicated by other studies before fiber could be included in treating belly fat. This study, however, does serve as a reminder that fiber intake should be an important nutrient in a healthy diet, regardless of your specific health goals (weight loss, heart health, etc.).
Fiber Intake and Your Health
Fiber intake, according to clinical research, has been shown to improve the health of many different systems in your body.
In fact, fiber has been linked to improvements in heart health, digestive health, appetite control, and even in weight loss.
According to the results of this study, soluble fiber, in particular, could be associated with a reduction in visceral adipose tissue, therefore potentially reducing your risk for many chronic diseases.
Including fiber in your diet (oatmeal, sprouted grain breads, and whole grains) may not only improve glucose and cholesterol levels, but could lead to reduced visceral belly fat and improved health.