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A diet defense against the most dangerous fat

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Centr has partnered with, a nonprofit leader in longevity science journalism and advocacy, to bring you the latest research on aging and rejuvenation. Learn more about our partnership below.

It’s no secret that many fitness journeys begin with a desire to lose excess fat. But of the different types of fat our bodies store, one in particular is the most dangerous for our health: visceral fat.

This is not the fat you can poke, wobble and squeeze between your fingers. That’s subcutaneous fat, which lies just beneath the skin. Visceral fat is stored deep in the belly, behind your abdominal muscles and around your organs.

Let’s take a look at what causes this fat to build up and the plant foods that can help you fight back.

An infographic explaining the difference between subcutaneous and visceral fat and where it sits in the body.

Subcutaneous fat vs visceral fat

While both types of fat – subcutaneous and visceral – build up when you consume more calories than you burn off with physical activity, where visceral fat is stored on your body is influenced by a complicated range of factors, including age, genetics, sleep quality and alcohol consumption.

For instance, women are more likely to begin storing fat in the belly (rather than their thighs or hips) after reaching menopause.

As well as making your waistband feel tight, visceral fat is associated with many health problems, including heart disease, breast cancer and asthma – so the less you have, the better.

Recently, researchers explored the role of polyphenols in reducing visceral fat. Polyphenols are a type of chemical compound present in many plant foods, with concentrated levels found in the likes of berries, nuts, seeds, dried and fresh herbs, coffee and tea.

Centr HILIT trainer Alexz Parvi, wearing gym gear and a loose white linen shirt, leans back against a kitchen bench, holding a white mug of tea.

Your morning cup of tea or coffee might be good for more than making you smile.

What’s the best diet for the worst type of fat?

Digging into the benefits of a polyphenol-rich diet, researchers studied three groups of people: one that ate according to standard US dietary guidelines, another that ate a Mediterranean diet with 440mg per day of polyphenols, and a third group that ate a plant-focused Mediterranean diet with almost double the polyphenol intake.

After 18 months, the group with the plant-focused Mediterranean diet had lost more than twice the visceral fat, at 14 percent, compared to the group eating a standard Mediterranean diet. This was despite all groups having the same calorie intake and levels of physical exercise.

How to tap into the power of polyphenols

To help reduce visceral fat – and lower your risk of the health problems it can lead to – aim to get more plant foods with polyphenols onto your plate.

While the exact fat-reduction effects of polyphenols require more study, researchers have suggested it may act on several fronts, including increased fat oxidation, thermogenesis and energy expenditure.

A polyphenol-rich diet could have benefits for your training and recovery, too: “Research shows that polyphenols can help minimize post-exercise pain, improve strength recovery and reduce fatigue,” says our nutrition expert Angie Asche.

A white bowl of chocolate truffles from the Centr meal plan, decorated with raspberries, rests on a wooden table.

A combo of cashew nuts, fresh raspberries and cocoa powder make these home-made chocolate truffles a polyphenol powerhouse.

To up your daily intake of polyphenols, try this:

Disclaimer: This Centr content is adapted with permission from an article written by The content herein represents Centr’s interpretation of the original source material.

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Centr has partnered with to bring you the latest in longevity research. is the leading source of industry news and a nonprofit advocacy foundation whose mission is to accelerate progress toward overcoming age-related diseases. Since 2014, the organization has focused on responsible journalism, high-impact advocacy, and media initiatives that make longevity research and education more accessible to all.

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