La belly it is one of the parts of the body that worries us the most and to which more books have always been dedicated. Just this week, the volume The belly diet is out (Edizioni Lswr, € 18,90), authored by Serena Missori, endocrinologist, and Alessandro Gelli, researcher and scientific popularizer, who propose a 4-week program to lose weight, fight bloating and abdominal fat, and counteract the most common causes that can make the waistline rise.
Not just an aesthetic problem
«The classic“ pancetta ”, which can also affect people with a lean constitution, is a“ risk factor ”that should not be underestimated», explains Dr. Valentina Schirò, a nutrition biologist specializing in food science in Palermo.
According to a study recently published in Neurology, the journal of the American Academy of Neurology, people with excessive accumulation of visceral fat would have less gray matter (i.e. fewer nerve cells) involved in sensory perception and muscle control.
Not only. In addition to brain health, heart health can also suffer from the effects of an expanded waistline. In particular, researchers from the Mayo Clinic (USA) observed that even those with a normal weight, but fat stored under the abdominal muscles and around the main internal organs (liver, heart, intestine), are more than twice as likely to incur in cardiovascular problems such as heart attack and stroke compared to those with flat stomachs.
If it depends on the extra pounds: less saturated fat, more fiber and vitamin D. This is suggested by a study by California Polytechnic State University: "Fibers slow down the entry into the circulation of fats and sugars, increase levels of good cholesterol (HDL) and keep arteries clean and healthy", comments our expert.
In addition, a recent study by the University Medical Center of Leiden (The Netherlands) recommends prevent vitamin D deficiency. “It is involved in the secretion of insulin, which plays a crucial role in sugar metabolism. This hormone, if produced in excess, increases appetite, hinders the body's consumption of energy reserves and thus favors the accumulation of extra kilograms ”, explains Dr.
«To stock up on vitamin D try to expose yourself to sunlight for at least 20-30 minutes a day: ultraviolet rays, in fact, stimulate its production by the epidermis. An indispensable condition, also because only a few foods contain it naturally, and moreover in minimal quantities. These include fish (especially wild salmon, sardines, mackerel, tuna and cod), dried mushrooms, whole milk and eggs. The advice is then to always combine them with a source of "good" fats, such as extra virgin olive oil, which favor their absorption by the body ».
Stop smoking. And watch out for times of stress
This was shown by a study from the University of Glasgow (Scotland): people who can't do without cigarettes have a increased concentration of abdominal fat. But there is also another factor that can affect the circumference: the stress.
"Frantic rhythms, life-changing events, such as bereavement, a relationship that does not work, a difficulty at work or in private life, can increase the production of cortisol, which lean mass decreasesa, increases the fat content and increases water retention, which is responsible for swelling and heaviness ", explains the nutritionist biologist.
«Higher cortisol levels also cause blood sugar to rise, the level of sugars in the blood, which if not burned immediately are transformed by insulin into fat and are deposited above all in the waist area ».
To avoid dilation, eat slowly
If you feel like a balloon, maybe it's not just the pounds of fat. One of the most common factors that can cause abdominal swelling and heaviness are wrong lifestyles. At the origin of the problem there is not only a diet rich in sugars, which favor fermentation and the accumulation of intestinal gas, but also wrong habits.
A Japanese study from Kyushu University found that those who eat slowly are 42% less likely to gain weight. "Chewing each bite well also allows you to ingest less air, which can help accentuate abdominal tension, heaviness and swelling," says the expert.
Cut back on sugar and salt when your period comes
Swollen belly can get worse with the arrival of your period. The swelling, in fact, can be the indicator of the so-called premenstrual syndrome. According to a study conducted by the University of California and published in the Journal of Women's Health, it could be due to a high concentration of a substance called reactive protein C, which is produced in case of inflammation.
The higher the level of this protein, the greater the symptoms, including swelling, cramps, weight gain. «To reduce the feeling of heaviness it can be useful reduce foods rich in sugar and salt at the table, which promote inflammation and focus above all on those sources of minerals such as potassium and magnesium (seasonal vegetables and fruit) », suggests Dr. Schirò.
Menopause can also make the waistline rise: According to a study recently conducted by the University Hospital of Lausanne, Switzerland, one of the main causes of abdominal fat at this stage of life is a drop in estrogen. “The mechanisms by which this happens are not yet known. What is known is that the physiological decrease in female hormones, which occurs with the end of the fertile age, and the increase in male ones, called androgens, leads to a redistribution of fat mainly in the central area of the body»Explains the expert.
What to do? According to a study by the Mayo Clinic Proceedings (USA) it can be useful to correct bad lifestyles such as a sedentary lifestyle and poor nutrition. "In this sentence It is essential to exercise, reduce calories and get adequate amounts of calcium, essential for bone health. And focus on foods rich in phytoestrogens, substances similar to female hormones. According to various studies, these substances can help to better manage the hormonal imbalances and disorders (hot flashes, weight gain) that menopause entails », concludes Dr.
Take care of the bacterial flora
“Inflammation, swelling and even weight accumulation around the waist can all be down to one imbalance of the ferments that populate the intestine»Explains Dr. , a dietician in Milan.
«So don't forget to enter in your menu a probiotic food (to drink or eat). It will benefit not only your stomach, but also your health in general: both physical (you will have more efficient immune defenses) and mental, as recent studies show that have highlighted the relationship between unbalanced bacterial flora, depression and stress ».
- READ MORE: Abdominal bloating: 3 causes and 3 menus for a flat stomach