Trying to lose pounds around your midsection? Here’s the latest evidence on what (and what not) to do.

Sitting & belly fat

The time you spend in a chair, on the sofa, or in a car may affect the size of your belly.

Scientists did MRI scans of 124 people at risk for type 2 diabetes.1 Each wore an accelerometer for a week.

Among those who were inactive (they averaged 13 minutes a day of at least moderate-intensity exercise), each hour of sedentary time per day was linked to an extra 1.9 quarts of abdominal fat. But sedentary time wasn’t linked to belly fat in people who were active (they averaged 40 minutes a day).

This type of study, on its own, can’t prove that sitting on the couch boosts belly fat, but it’s one more reason to get out of your seat.

How to trim bad belly fat

Israeli researchers randomly assigned 278 sedentary adults (mostly men) with oversized waists or high triglycerides and low HDL (“good”) cholesterol to one of two diets with equal calories—low-carb Mediter­ranean or low-fat—for 1½ years.2

For the last year, half were also assigned to an exercise program (45 minutes of aerobic plus 15 minutes of strength training) three days a week.

The low-carb Mediterranean group was told to eat more vegetables, beans, poultry, and fish instead of beef and lamb. And they were given an ounce of walnuts to eat each day. Their carb limit was 40 grams a day for two months, and up to 70 grams a day thereafter.

The low-fat group was told to eat whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and beans, and to cut back on sweets and high-fat snacks.

Each group was served either a low-carb Mediterranean or a low-fat lunch—the main meal of the day in Israel—at work.

After 1½ years, both groups had lost about six pounds. But the exercisers lost more deep belly (visceral) fat, the worst kind, no matter which diet they ate. And waist size, triglycerides, and liver fat fell more in the low-carb Mediterranean group, whether they exercised or not.

What to do

To shrink belly fat, get moving. To lower triglycerides and liver fat, replace some carbs with nuts, fish, and other unsaturated fats.


1Obesity 26: 29, 2018.

2 Circulation 2017. doi:10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.117.030501.