Belly fat is maligned for its way of tampering with any outfit, but really there's something way worse about the stuff: When white fat expands in your abdomen, nestling deep among your organs, it sets you up for some serious health trouble.

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We now know that this type of fat, called visceral fat, churns out stress hormones like cortisol and inflammatory substances called cytokines that affect the body's production of insulin. The result: It's worse than just being generally overweight; you're looking at increased risks of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Here's how you can lose belly fat for good...

Never stop moving

There's one thing to like about visceral fat: It yields fairly easily to aerobic exercise. Vaporising kilojoules via running, biking, swimming - anything that gets your heart rate up - wins over resistance training when it comes to getting rid of the stuff. A recent study from Duke found the sweet spot: Jogging the equivalent of 19km a week will help you lose belly fat.

This time, eat protein like you mean it

Of course you know that protein's essential for a slimmer you and essential for losing belly fat - you couldn't have made it through the Paleo craze without hearing all about it. But here's why protein really needs to play a prime roll on your plate: "Your body starts to produce more insulin as you age, since your muscle and fat cells aren't responding to it properly," explains obesity medicine specialist Dr Louis Aronne.

And insulin promotes fat storage, especially around your belly (yippee!). A diet high in protein may protect you against insulin resistance, Aronne says. One easy way to up your intake is to add whey protein to your smoothies, meals, or snacks. 

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In one study, obese women who followed a diet for eight weeks that was roughly 30 percent protein, 40 percent carbs, and 30 percent fat lost significantly more fat - including visceral pudge - than women who stuck to a plan that was 16 percent protein, 55 percent carbs, and 26 percent fat.

Pound the polyunsaturates

This just in: Saturated fat packs on more visceral fat than polyunsaturated ones,according to a Swedish study. When subjects ate 1,500 more kJs daily for seven weeks, either in the form of palm oil (saturated) or sunflower oil (polyunsaturated), the former gained more visceral fat while the latter gained more muscle mass and less body fat. You know the deal: polyunsaturated fats are the ones in nuts, seeds, and fish and can help you lose belly fat. 

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Catch enough Zzzz's 

Routinely squeaking by on five hours or less per night increases visceral fat levels, according to a Wake Forest University study. As you likely already know, 8 is the number to aim for and is ideal for losing belly fat.

Get fussy about fibre

As in, make sure you're eating a lot of it. In a US trial, subjects who increased their soluble fibre intake by 10 grams a day (the equivalent of two small apples, one cup of green peas, and one half cup of beans) reduced visceral fat by 3.7 percent.

© Prevention Australia