The love handles around the waist are particularly stubborn. But don’t worry: According to a US study, a very specific type of food helps to keep the waist circumference in check.
Belly fat, also known as visceral fat, is one of the problematic body fats. Because it wraps itself around the internal organs and sends out messenger substances that in turn cause inflammatory reactions in the body – an extreme burden on the cardiovascular system. And once it’s accumulated, it’s hard to get rid of. Unless, in addition to sufficient exercise, you also rely on the right diet. Researchers at Tufts University in Boston have found out which group of foods can be used to reduce waist circumference in the long term.
Long-term study with 3100 adults
The research team recruited 3,100 healthy women and men (average age 50 years) in the early 1990s and had them complete a detailed nutritional questionnaire every four years. In addition, various examinations (including waist measurements) were made. The study ran for a total of 18 years – and primarily addressed the following question: How does the consumption of whole grain or refined white flour products affect the five risk factors for heart disease in the long term? These include waist size, blood pressure, blood sugar, triglycerides and HDL (“good”) cholesterol. The results of the study were published in the Journal of Nutrition.1
Reduce waist circumference: Which foods are taboo
The researchers looked more closely at the extent to which whole grain products had a positive impact on said risk factors over the four-year intervals. They counted in portions. For example, one slice of whole wheat toast, 1/2 cup of oatmeal, or 1/2 cup of brown rice equated to one serving. One of the most important findings of the study is that when it comes to waist circumference, those who hate whole grains have to pay dearly. This increased with them every four years by an average of 2.5 centimeters.
Slim and healthy thanks to muesli, wholemeal pasta and co.
People who consumed wholemeal bread, muesli and other cereal snacks (three to five servings) showed different values. Her love of whole grains resulted in a smaller increase in waist size. With increasing age, just a little more than a centimeter was added. The hearty diet also had other positive health effects: blood pressure and blood sugar levels remained stable over the years. This means that the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease was below average. “Our results suggest that eating whole grains offers health benefits that go beyond just helping us lose or maintain our weight as we age,” said study leader Dr. Nicola McKeown in a university statement. “In fact, this data suggests that people who eat more whole grains are better able to maintain their blood sugar and blood pressure over time.”2
What makes whole grain so valuable
A fresh white flour baguette is delicious, but it’s actually just empty carbs. The whole grain version is completely different. The whole grain preserves nutrients such as magnesium, potassium, B vitamins, unsaturated fats and antioxidants, which have a regulating effect on blood pressure, for example. The included fiber keeps you full for longer, feeds the microbiome, which is beneficial for gut health, and keeps blood sugar levels in check. This has a positive effect on how the body stores and burns fat. The researchers are certain: “Whole grain products not only help to maintain abdominal girth, but also reduce other health risk factors.” People who rely on whole grain are not only slimmer and fuller for longer, but also healthier.
1. Sawicki, C.M., Jacques, P.F., Lichtenstein, A.H. et al. (2021). Whole- and Refined-Grain Consumption and Longitudinal Changes in Cardiometabolic Risk Factors in the Framingham Offspring Cohort, The Journal of Nutrition.
2. Tufts University. Eating Whole Grains Linked to Smaller Increases in Waist Size, Blood Pressure, Blood Sugar (accessed 11 April 2023)