More soluble fiber in your diet equals fewer problems with visceral fat, the kind of fat that wraps around your vital organs. A new study out of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina has data to prove that.
So you say to yourself, “I eat plenty of fiber.” But do you get enough soluble fiber, defined as the kind of fiber that forms a gel-like solution when mixed with a liquid?
According to the data, it all comes down to consuming 10 grams of soluble fiber a day and thus reducing visceral fat by 3.7 percent over five years. What constitutes 10 grams of soluble fiber? One example would be two small apples, a cup of green peas and a half-cup of pinto beans, noted a June 27, 2011, news release from the medical center. But that daily 10 grams needs to be supplemented by at least 30 minutes of vigorous exercise two to four times per week, said Dr. Kristen Hairston, assistant professor of internal medicine at Wake Forest and lead researcher for the study. If you add that in, you get a bump up to 7.4 percent decrease in visceral fat over five years.
“We know that a higher rate of visceral fat is associated with high blood pressure, diabetes and fatty liver disease,” Hairston said. “Our study found that making a few simple changes can have a big health impact.”
The study encompassed 1,114 Americans -- with a focus on Hispanics and African-Americans -- who were surveyed about their diet and lifestyle and given CT exams to measure subcutaneous fat (just beneath the skin) versus visceral fat. The participants were surveyed and scanned for fat again five years later. Researchers found that an increase in soluble fiber was associated with a decrease in accumulated visceral fat, but not subcutaneous fat.
Many studies over the years have looked at dietary fiber’s effect on obesity, Hairston said, but the Wake Forest study looked at the relationship between fiber and specific fat deposits, including visceral fat, also known as belly fat. Her next study will incorporate tests on a widely available supplement for soluble fiber, to see whether it can produce similar decreases in visceral fat.
Visceral fat has been associated with higher triglycerides and insulin resistance and thus it comes up in conversations about heart disease and diabetes. Males seem to have a higher percentage of it than females, and the amount is partially based on genetics.
While the new U.S. government “food plate” and health care practitioners continue to preach the importance of fiber in diets, it’s good to evaluate whether you’re getting both soluble and insoluble fiber. The latter kind of fiber does not mix with liquid and passes through the digestive tract largely intact. Both types of fiber help maintain bowel regularity.
According to EmpowHER reference materials on fiber, good sources of the soluble kind include pears, Brussels sprouts, lima beans, Northern beans, psyllium, oat bran, oatmeal and barley.
Soluble Fiber Strikes a Blow to Belly Fat
Reviewed July 11, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Alison Stanton