Best Approach to Reduce Visceral Fat Is Exercise

Increasing physical activity may be more beneficial than pharmacological intervention in lowering visceral fat, according to recent research.

“Visceral fat can affect local organs or the entire body system,” said Dr. Ian J. Neeland, senior study author and an assistant professor of internal medicine, in a press release. “Systemically it can affect your heart and liver, as well as abdominal organs. When studies use weight or body mass index as a metric, we don’t know if the interventions are reducing fat everywhere in the body, or just near the surface.”

Visceral fat is associated with numerous diseases, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, breast and colorectal cancers, and Alzheimer’s disease.

The review, published in the February issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, included randomized, controlled trials that compared monitored exercise to pharmacological interventions in how effectively they reduced visceral adipose tissue (VAT). Queried databases included Ovid MEDLINE, Scopus, Web of Science, Cochrane Library,, New York Academy of Science Grey Literature Report, and OpenGrey, in addition to hand searches of existing literature.

After evaluating 2,515 titles and abstracts, researchers narrowed it down to 17 for the final analysis, including a total of 3,602 patients (mean age, 54 years; 65% female; mean body mass index at enrollment, 31 mg/k2). Although pharmacological interventions were beneficial in reducing VAT, exercise proved to be more effective (pharmacological interventions: standardized mean difference [SMD], −0.54; 95% CI, −0.63 to −0.46; P <.001 vs. exercise interventions: (SMD, −0.54; 95% CI, −0.63 to −0.46; P < .001).

Exercise interventions resulted in greater reduction in VAT relative to weight loss than did pharmacological interventions,” the researchers wrote in their abstract. “A preferential reduction in VAT may be clinically meaningful when monitoring success of interventions because weight loss alone may underestimate benefits.”

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Source: Mayo Clinic Proceedings