Researchers weigh in on how to blast belly fat this Spring

Is one of your resolutions about some serious weight loss this year?

After all, not only does that excess weight around your middle make buttoning your pants more difficult, it also puts you at risk for heart disease, cancer, dementia, and even early death.

But, will hitting the gym get you the results you want? And, how does exercise work to blast that fat? And the question we all want to know — how much can you expect to lose and how long will it take?

A new study from researchers at the University of Copenhagen has all of these answers…

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Boosting molecule signaling

The research, published in the journal Cell Metabolism, set out to discover how physical activity reduces visceral fat tissue, that belly fat that surrounds your internal organs and leads to disease.

Related: How big does your belly have to be to harm your health?

Some scientists had proposed that the “fight-or-flight” hormone called epinephrine is responsible for this effect. But the Copenhagen researchers suspected the answer was vastly different.

In fact, they believed that a signaling molecule known as interleukin-6 was most likely the key player because it regulates energy metabolism, stimulates the breakdown of fat, and is released from skeletal muscle during exercise.

So, they decided to test the idea…

The team carried out a 12-week trial in which they randomly assigned abdominally obese adults to one of four groups. The participants received intravenous infusions of either tocilizumab (a drug that blocks interleukin-6) or saline as a placebo every four weeks, combined with no exercise or a bicycle routine consisting of several 45-minute sessions each week.

And, the researchers used magnetic resonance imaging to assess visceral fat tissue mass at the beginning and end of the study.

Here’s where it gets good…

In the placebo groups (the ones where interleukin-6 was allowed to work), exercise reduced belly fat tissue mass by an average of 8 percent, over those 12 weeks.

On the other hand, when the participants were given drugs to block the signaling molecule, their amount of belly fat actually increased!

“The take-home for the general audience is ‘do exercise,'” says first author Anne-Sophie Wedell-Neergaard of the University of Copenhagen. “We all know that exercise promotes better health, and now we also know that regular exercise training reduces abdominal fat mass and thereby potentially also the risk of developing cardio-metabolic diseases.”

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Get started now for a slimmer belly

This means that the time to start working toward a flatter belly and better health is now — especially if you’d like to look slimmer and be ready to hit the beach by Summer.

But, there are a few things you should remember…

“It is important to stress that when you start exercising, you may increase body weight due to increased muscle mass,” Wedell-Neergaard says. “So, in addition to measuring your overall body weight, it would be useful, and maybe more important, to measure waist circumference to keep track of the loss of visceral fat mass and to stay motivated.”

You should also remember to start slow and work your way up since it can be more difficult to stick to an exercise program when you’ve made yourself so sore you can hardly walk.

If you’re new to exercise, make a goal of walking, riding a bike or even dancing for 10 minutes five times a week initially and add five minutes at a time as you get stronger. The key is to stick to it in order to kick interleukin-6 into gear, burn that stubborn belly fat and build metabolism-boosting muscle.

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  1. How exercise reduces belly fat in humans — Cell Press
Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

By Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

Dr. Adria Schmedthorst is a board-certified Doctor of Chiropractic, with more than 20 years of experience. She has dedicated herself to helping others enjoy life at every age through the use of alternative medicine and natural wellness options. Dr. Schmedthorst enjoys sharing her knowledge with the alternative healthcare community, providing solutions for men and women who are ready to take control of their health the natural way.