To some, the quest for abs might as well be a deep excursion into one’s own navel—a vanity exercise for those who are too focused on their self-image. But at a time when more than 130 million Americans are overweight or obese, when one in three children will develop diabetes in adulthood, and when weight-related disease eats up 20 percent of our health care dollars, I’d argue that stripping away inches from your midsection is no quixotic quest. Indeed, it might be the best thing you can do for your health. And the really great news is that it’s never too late to get started. Not long ago, a study of 1,600 middle-age adults conducted by researchers at the University of South Carolina revealed that people who began eating five or more fruits and vegetables a day and exercising to keep their weight down reduced their risk of heart disease 35 percent and risk of mortality 40 percent within 4 years of adopting a healthier lifestyle. The New Abs Diet Cookbook will make it easy for you to lose weight, keep it off, and reap those health benefits. How? By filling you up with power foods.
The recipes in this cookbook are designed specifically to target belly fat— the most dangerous fat on your body. Belly fat is classified as “visceral fat.” That means it is located behind your abdominal wall, where it surrounds your internal organs, pushing your belly outward. And over the past decade, scientists have concluded that the more visceral fat you have, the more it puts your health in danger.
That’s because visceral fat doesn’t just lie there. It actively works to harm your body by secreting a number of substances, including those called adipokines. Adipokines include a hormone called resistin, which leads to high blood sugar and increases your risk of diabetes; angiotensinogen, a compound that raises blood pressure; and interleukin-6, a chemical associated with arterial inflammation and heart disease. Visceral fat also messes with another important hormone called adiponectin, which regulates the metabolism of lipids and glucose.
The more visceral fat you have, the less adiponectin you have and the lower your metabolic rate. (And of course, the lower your metabolism, the easier it is to gain weight—leading to an endless feedback loop of, well, pants with extra belt loops.) Plus, the more visceral fat you have, the more it may be sabotaging your muscles—leading to even more weight gain, more injury, and less chance of reuniting with your abs. A study in the Journal of Applied Physiology showed that those biologically active molecules that are released from visceral fat can actually degrade muscle quality (which again leads to more fat and more health risk). In one study at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, researchers looked at seven different factors that determined a person’s heart disease risk. The biggest single predictor of whether you’re going to have a heart attack? The amount of visceral fat you’re carrying.