Belly fat can be tough to lose, but doctors say cutting out sugar may be one giant step in the right direction. There are massive health benefits from cutting back on your sugar intake, one of which is losing stubborn belly fat, says Brenda Rea, MD, DrPH, PT, RD, a family and preventive medicine physician at Loma Linda University Health.

Rea says sugar can create an inflammatory response in the body, putting the body in a stressed-out state. “When the body experiences inflammation and stress, the preferred storage site for fat is in and around the belly,” she says.

Not only does sugar promote this fat storage, but sugar and refined carbs spike insulin levels in the body, which signals the body to store fat. When we eat refined carbohydrates, they are absorbed quickly into the bloodstream, Rea says. When a lot of sugar is added into the bloodstream at one time instead of a slow, steady release that happens when one eats unprocessed plant foods, the pancreas senses the spike in sugar and produces a lot of insulin to manage the sugar spike. “The job of insulin is to move the sugar out of the bloodstream into cells so it doesn’t damage the blood vessels and organs,” Rea says. 

Rea says it’s essential to be aware of the hidden sugars in foods. It’s hard enough to avoid the sugars we know about, but some go by names that people may not always understand. One of the most overlooked, problematic sugars is high fructose corn syrup, Rea says. Others include cane sugar, cane juice, molasses, raw sugar, turbinado sugar, molasses, malt syrup and date sugar. “Foods like granola bars, ketchup, yogurt or breakfast cereals may also have hidden sugars,” she says. “If you’re not sure if something has sugar, read the labels and look for those lesser-known names of sugar.”

When it comes to belly fat, Rea says the goal shouldn’t just be to look good but to live healthier and longer. “Enjoying a healthy lifestyle should be the motivation,” she says. “The best part about a healthy lifestyle is that the benefits will last a lifetime.”

Consider a lifestyle visit consultation with one of our Lifestyle Medicine physicians at the Center for Health Promotion. They will work closely with your primary care physician to improve your overall health and wellbeing. Please call the Center for Health Promotion at 909-558-4594 to make your Lifestyle Consultation visit today.