Fat that accumulates in the abdominal area has been found to increase your risk of diabetes and heart disease more than fat accumulations in any other area of your body. Belly fat can be difficult to lose depending on your body type and other genetically determined factors. Targeting a specific area of your body for weight loss is not possible, but there are studies that have shown certain behaviors may lead to a reduction of abdominal fat.
A study published in November 2009 by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, titled "Nutritional Status, Dietary Intake and Body Composition" and conducted by Davis, Alexander, et al., found that those who increased their fiber intake over a two year period were able to reduce abdominal fat by 4 percent. The study also showed that those who ate less fiber had a 21-percent increase in abdominal fat.
There are many ways to add more fiber into your diet. The best method for fiber consumption is to increase your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables. It is not enough for you to simply add canned or cooked vegetables as they may still contain some amount of fiber but they lack water, an essential component to breaking the fiber down and distributing it properly throughout your body. Some fruits and vegetables that you should incorporate into your diet more regularly include strawberries, apples, berries, kale, broccoli, carrots and peas.
Beans and whole grains are also important fiber sources. A bowl of oatmeal every other morning is an effective way to start a consistent high-fiber diet. If you are too busy to make breakfast, try a high-fiber nutrition bar. Fiber bars should be considered a second choice due to the additives typically found in prepackaged foods. Increase your fiber intake gradually or you may experience gastrointestinal discomfort.
Any excess weight is best diminished by regular cardiovascular exercise. A study published by the International Journal of Obesity in August 2006 and conducted by You, Murphy, et al. at the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center found after a five-year study that cardiovascular exercise not only causes fat loss but also reduces the size of abdominal fat cells. If you are not currently exercising regularly, increase your activity level gradually and start with light activities such as walking. You can increase your level of activity over time as your body adjusts. If you exercise regularly and are attempting to get rid of stubborn, excess belly fat, try new exercises that vary from your traditional routine.
Strength training is also important as it builds muscle that will aid in burning excess body fat. Abdominal exercises are important but should not be the entire focus of your strength-training program. Targeting abdominal muscles has not been proven to particularly reduce belly fat, but they will strengthen and flatten the belly. Pilates exercises build strength in the abdominals as well as other areas of the body. High stress factors have also been attributed to excess accumulation of abdominal fat and exercise has been proven to reduce stress levels.