Metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors (large waistline, high levels of triglyceride, blood sugar, blood pressure and low level of HDL cholesterol) that predict heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
Excess belly fat is particularly dangerous because it produces inflammatory molecules such as C-reactive protein, that enter the bloodstream and trigger the systemic diseases linked with metabolic syndrome, such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
In the study, Vieira et al examined the effects of diet and exercise on the inflammation of visceral fat tissue in mice. A high-fat diet was first used to induce obesity in the animals.
After 6 weeks, mice were assigned to either a sedentary group, an exercise group, a low-fat diet group, or a group that combined a low-fat diet with exercise for 6 or 12 weeks so the scientists could compare the effects in both the short and long term.
“Unexpectedly, the only significant increase from 6 to 12 weeks in belly fat - the type of fat that triggers these inflammatory diseases - was in the mice who were sedentary, which suggests that exercise is an effective behavioral approach to reduce the accumulation of visceral fat even when fat in the diet is high,” she said.
This is a promising finding.
It indicates that even if you struggle with dieting, you can still reduce the likelihood of developing obesity-related inflammatory diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, by adding a modest amount of exercise to your life.
Visceral fat is different from other body fat. Visceral fat, also called intra-abdominal fat, refers to the fat that surrounds the internal organs. Subcutaneous fat, on the other hand, is body fat that is close to the skin's surface and is considered less dangerous, and easier to lose, than visceral fat.
Vieira VJ, Valentine RJ, Wilund KR, Antao N, Baynard T, Woods JA. Effects of exercise and low-fat diet on adipose tissue inflammation and metabolic complications in obese mice. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2009 May;296(5):E1164-71.