Bikes can bust belly fat

New research has shown that a gut busting ride on a bike can do just that—carve away that embarrassing belly fat.

But the news has significance far beyond our vanity: abdominal fat is a real villain, associated with an increased risk of not only cardio-metabolic disease, but also cancer, dementia, and all-cause mortality.

It has long been known that physical activity is positive for cardio-vascular health, but how?

Scientists at the University of Copenhagen, after putting obese people on bicycles, believe that they have confirmed the exact mechanism—a signalling molecule called interleukin-6.

"The take home for the general audience is 'do exercise,'" says first author Anne-Sophie Wedell-Neergaard of the University of Copenhagen. "We all know that exercise promotes better health, and now we also know that regular exercise training reduces abdominal fat mass and thereby potentially also the risk of developing cardio-metabolic diseases."

The researchers suspected that the molecule may have been involved, so they used a hormone known to block its effect on some of the trial subjects, but not on others.

This revealed that the exercising participants, if given the hormone to block interleukin-6, did not lose weight.

Otherwise, the exercising participants lost 225 grams of visceral fat tissue during the 12 week trial. The researchers used magnetic resonance imaging to assess visceral fat tissue mass at the beginning and end of the study.

The authors have some practical exercise tips. "It is important to stress that when you start exercising, you may increase body weight due to increased muscle mass," Wedell-Neergaard says.

"So, in addition to measuring your overall body weight, it would be useful, and maybe more important, to measure waist circumference to keep track of the loss of visceral fat mass and to stay motivated."

The paper appear in the journal Cell Metabolism.

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