Visceral fat is the type of deep abdominal fat that collects around your internal organs and increases the size of your waistline. There are a few ways to measure whether you have too much visceral fat: a waist size over 40 inches for women or over 35 inches for men (that’s about an inch above your hip bones). Also, a ratio between your waist and your height over 0.9; or an “apple-shaped” body shape with excess belly fat.
Why should you be concerned about visceral fat? It’s especially dangerous because it releases chemicals into your blood that cause inflammation and affects how your body uses insulin. The chemicals that visceral fat releases reduce insulin function, so you can’t process glucose as efficiently. This can lead to type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other chronic health conditions.
As you might expect, lifestyle affects how much visceral fat you carry on your frame. A diet of junk food and ultra-processed food increases the amount of visceral fat deep in your abdominal cavity. What you drink matters too. One small change you can make to decrease your body’s visceral fat burden is to change the type of beverages you drink. Let’s look at three types of beverages to avoid, and two you should drink if you have too much visceral fat.
Soft drinks are bad news for your body weight, health, and the amount of visceral fat you have. A 6-year study looked at 1,000 adults and questioned them about their beverage drinking habits. Researchers found those who drank sweetened soft drinks daily gained enough visceral fat to negatively affect their health risks. In fact, those who drank soft drinks daily gained around 1.8 pounds of visceral fat over the study period. This was confirmed by CT imaging before and after the study began.
Diet Soft Drinks
Although not proven, there are concerns that diet soft drinks sweetened with artificial sweeteners fuel weight gain and the accumulation of visceral fat. A study discussed on SugarScience.com found that subjects who drank more than one diet soft drink per day experienced a 4-fold greater increase in waist size over 9 years. Waist size is a marker of visceral fat. It’s unclear why drinking diet soft drinks may increase visceral fat. According to one theory, artificial sweeteners alter the gut microbiome, which causes weight gain. Another is that drinking artificial beverages doesn’t supply the body with energy, so they don’t satisfy hunger, and lead to overeating.
Fruit juice might sound like a healthy beverage to sip, but it’s high in natural fructose. Your liver metabolizes fructose differently and increases the risk of accumulating visceral fat. That’s why beverages that contain high fructose corn syrup, a synthetic form of fructose, are harmful. But drinking too much fruit juice may also be harmful to your health. It’s best to skip the fruit juice and stick to eating whole fruit. Whole fruit retains its fiber, and that reduces its negative impact on your waistline and health.
So, soft drinks and beverages high in sugar are off the menu if you have too much visceral fat, but are there beverages you can drink?
Green tea is rich in catechin antioxidants, the most important of which is epigallocatechin gallate (ECGC). Animal studies show that green tea in higher amounts helps reduce visceral fat. Studies also show that ECGC may help with fat loss by subtly boosting the rate at which your body burns fat. To get the benefits, you’d likely have to drink 3-5 cups of green tea daily, but switching from soft drinks to green tea should have benefits, even if you don’t drink at least 3 cups. You can reap the most benefits by drinking home-brewed unsweetened green tea. Most bottled green tea contains far less ECGC.
Could your morning cup of coffee help tame visceral fat? A randomized controlled trial, the highest quality type of study, of Japanese adults with too much visceral fat found that those who drank coffee lost more visceral fat and reduced their waist size more than participants in the placebo group. You might think caffeine is responsible for the drop in visceral fat, but researchers believe antioxidants in coffee, particularly chlorogenic acid, may explain the drop in visceral fat in coffee drinkers.
The best way to drink your coffee to get health benefits is black with no added sugar. At least, avoid drinking sweetened coffee drinks with lots of sugar or cream.
Eliminating the first three beverages and replacing them with the latter two is a small step to reduce visceral fat. Take a closer look at the rest of your lifestyle too. Make sure you’re eating whole, unrefined foods and staying physically active too.