The Effect of Heat on Belly Fat

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Woman talking to dermatologist. (Image: Tetra Images/Tetra images/Getty Images)

You've heard the phrases before -- spare tire, muffin top, love handles -- all referring to excess weight around the mid-section. And while marketers claim that you can get rid of stubborn belly fat with electrical belt devices that heat the fat cells, these claims are unsupported. However, dermatologists have a specialized heat technology that does appear to work, but not for everyone. If you're overweight or obese -- and according to national surveys, close to 70 percent of Americans are -- you must make the appropriate diet and lifestyle changes to slim down.

Heat Belts Fail to Affect Belly Fat

Manufacturers of widely marketed abdominal belts claim the devices provide targeted electrical stimulation to your abdominals, causing them to contract and heat up. They claim the increased temperature targets stubborn belly fat and results in weight loss in the mid-section, leaving you with defined abdominal muscles. However, researchers found when used according to the manufacturer guidelines, these devices have no effect on belly fat. Scientists tested the devices on healthy volunteers and noted that their body fat and weight remained unchanged despite using these devices three times a week. This particular study appeared in the May 2002 edition of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

Novel Heat Technology Destroys Belly Fat

Dermatologists have access to a specialized heat technology that uses radiofrequency waves to deliver heat deep into fat cells. The controlled heat effectively damages fat cells so your body can remove them as waste. A study published in February 2015 in the journal F1000 Research concluded that this novel technology effectively reduces belly fat and waist circumference. The American Academy of Dermatology writes that dermatologists are successfully using this technology to get rid of stubborn fat, although the FDA has yet to approve it for this purpose. Talk to your dermatologist to find out if you're a candidate for this procedure. Because it's non-invasive, you can resume your normal activities immediately afterward, according to the AAD.

Heat Technology Is Not for Overweight

Radiofrequency fat removal is not intended for drastic fat loss. If you have a lot of fat to lose, you'll have to stick with more traditional weight loss methods. The AAD writes that heat technology is meant for spot reduction in people who aren't deemed overweight, but instead have pockets of stubborn fat that fail to respond to diet and exercise. Therefore, if you're overweight or obese, heat technology is not the answer. The best way for you to get rid of belly fat is to reduce your overall body weight through dietary and lifestyle changes. Weight loss is a whole-body affair. As you slim down, you will lose fat from all over your body, including your abdomen.

Belly Fat Solutions for Overweight

Try incorporating some realistic diet and exercise solutions that may enhance belly fat loss. Adding aerobic exercise to your diet plan helps target belly fat specifically, according to one team of scientists. They compared high- and low-intensity aerobic exercise to diet alone and found that adding aerobic exercise caused a preferential reduction in the size of fat cells in the belly area -- and therefore fat loss -- while dieting alone didn't. The study results appeared in the August 2006 issue of the International Journal of Obesity.

Another strategy is to reduce your carbohydrate intake. Even a modest decrease in the amount of carbs you eat makes a difference, according to a study appearing in the Journal of Nutrition in January 2015. Researchers compared two low-calorie diets, one that was lower in carbs and one that was lower in fat. They found the group following the lower carb diet lost more belly fat than those on the lower fat plan.

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