Monday, September 13, 2021

What Is The Best Exercise To Get Rid Of Belly Fat

I get this question quite a bit from my clients. Losing weight from a particular body part, such as your belly, is called “spot reducing” and it does not work. Our bodies are not built that way. Doing crunches, for example, works your ab muscles, but does not have an impact on abdominal fat. 

When you lose weight, you lose it proportionally from your entire body. Therefore, the best way to lose belly fat is the best way to lose fat in general, which is a combination of a good diet, lots of cardio and resistance training.

So, at the end of the day, the only exercise to get rid of belly fat is push-away’s. Push away from the dinner table. Push-away from the vending machine. Push away from the ice cream, etc. 😊

Are Vegan Diets A Good Choice For Children?

The Study

Several popular books and documentaries recommend vegan diets to improve health and performance. It is unknown how these diets impact the health of young children. A really interesting cross-sectional study was recently published that sheds some light on this topic. Fifty-two vegan and 72 matched omnivore controls between the ages of 5 and 10 had their diet measured by means of a food frequency questionnaire. A variety of health outcomes were measured for comparison.

Here are some of the most pertinent results:

-Vegan children had lower body fat compared to omnivores.

-Vegan children had lower LDL cholesterol and C-reactive protein than omnivores.

-Vegans were shorter in stature.

-Vegans had less bone mineral content.

-Vegans had lower HDL cholesterol and higher homocysteine levels.

-Vegans had lower levels of Vitamin B-12, iron and Vitamin D. In fact, vegans were more likely to have a deficiency of B-12 and iron. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2021; 113:1165-77.  

Take Home Message

This is a really interesting and important study. It appears that a vegan diet is not particularly healthy for young, growing children. The impact of a vegan diet on cardiovascular risk factors were mixed. Lower body fat, LDL and C-reactive protein is beneficial, but lower HDL and higher homocysteine certainly is not.

Of even more concern are the negative impacts of the vegan diet on growth, bone mineral content and risk of deficiency of several very important nutrients. If you are avoiding animal products for moral or ethical reasons, I am not going to argue with that decision. However, if you are vegan because you think it is healthier for your children, you may want to reconsider.

Sugar-sweetened Beverage Consumption And Early Onset Colorectal Cancer.

The Study

Early onset colon cancer is increasing at an alarming rate. In fact, several organizations are now recommending colonoscopy screening starting at age 45 instead of 50. Sugar sweetened beverages were examined in this investigation for a potential association with early onset colon cancer. Over 95,000 women in the Nurses Health Study II were followed for 24 years. Here are some of the results of this important study:

-Women consuming 2 or more servings per day of sugar sweetened beverages had over twice the risk of early colon cancer when compared to women who had less than one serving per week.

-Each serving of a sugar sweetened beverage was associated with a 16% higher risk of early onset colon cancer.

-Replacing each serving per day of a sugar sweetened beverage with a diet soda, coffee or milk was associated with a reduced risk of early colon cancer of between 17 and 36 percent. Gut 2021: doi: 10.1136/gutjnl-2020-323450 

Take Home Message

The take home message here is really simple.  Strictly limit or completely eliminate sugar sweetened beverages.


Intermittent Fasting: New Evidence From A Top Journal

Intermittent Fasting has become a very popular dietary strategy for those trying to lose weight. What does the research say? Is it safe? Does it work? What are the side effects? A very well designed randomized trial in JAMA Internal Medicine was recently published. The results may be quite surprising to you. (Reference 1).

The Study

In this interesting study, 116 subjects were randomized into 1 of two groups:

-Half of the subjects were put into a group instructed to eat 3 meals per day.

-The other half followed an intermittent fasting protocol, where they could only eat between noon and 8:00 PM each day.

Subjects were followed for 12 weeks.

Here are some of the results of this important investigation:

-By the end of the 12 week follow-up, there were no significant differences in weight loss between the fasting group and the conventional dieting group.

-By the end of the 12 week follow-up, there were no significant differences in any metabolic measures between the groups. These variables included fasting insulin, glucose, hemoglobin A1C, triglycerides, total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol and LDL cholesterol.

-Measures of daily physical activity were significantly lower in the fasting group when compared to the conventional 3 meal a day group.

-Sleep efficiency was significantly lower in the fasting group when compared to the conventional 3 meal a day group.

-Adherence was higher in the conventional diet group. In other words, it was harder to stick to the intermittent fasting plan.

-In the fasting group, 65% of weight loss was muscle. This is a really big number. Normally, when we lose weight, 20-30% of the weight loss is muscle. This finding led the researchers to warn that intermittent fasting could lead to increased risk of sarcopenia (muscles loss). This is not good for your health or the long term ability to keep the weight off.

Conclusions And Recommendations

This is an interesting and important study that does not support intermittent fasting as a successful strategy for weight loss or health improvement.

To summarize:

-Fasting did not improve rate of weight loss.

-Fasting did not improve health.

-It was harder to stay on this diet than a conventional 3 meal a day plan.

-There were several negative side effects seen only in the intermittent fasting group. Most notably, a decrease in sleep quality, physical activity and an increased loss of muscle mass.  

I know that there are a lot of popular and convincing books about fasting out there, but at the end of the day, the research should guide us when it comes to evaluating any weight loss strategy. Although this is a well designed study in a top journal, it is only one study and is not definitive by any means.

Having said that, this is not the first study to show negative outcomes with intermittent fasting. Several other research investigations that I have previously covered in my blog showed numerous side effects to fasting. These include: an increased LDL cholesterol, glucose dysregulation, increased inflammation, increased hunger, a decreased physical activity level and a decreased energy expenditure. If you want to reference these studies, please refer to this older blog post (click here).

If you are trying to lose weight and improve your health, intermittent fasting does not look like the way to go.


1) Lowe DA, et al, Effects of time restricted eating on weight loss and other metabolic parameters in women and men with overweight and obesity. JAMA Internal Medicine; 2020; 180:1491-99.