Is having 6 pack abs healthy based on science?

You need to meet some specific nutrition requirements if you want to have clearly visible 6 pack abs. However, are these nutrition requirements healthy for us based on science? Is having 6 pack abs healthy for us? Let’s find out in this article.

What it takes to have a 6 pack abs?

One of the main nutrition requirements is to have a low amount of fat. On average your abs should become visible when you have approximately 10% of body fat. So, the question is how healthy is it to have such low amount of fat? Let’s find out.

Why do we need fat at all?

Fats play an important role. They provide our body with energy, essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that keep our nervous system and brain healthy and they also help with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E. [1]

So, we need certain amounts of fat to be healthy. However, there are some types of fat that are bad for us.

Types of fat

1. Unsaturated fats

Unsaturated fats can be in the form of monounsaturated (MUFAs) or polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs). Monounsaturated fats are usually found in plant foods such as nuts, seeds, olive oil, avocado.

Polyunsaturated fats are also known as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Our body can’t produce both these types of fats so it’s important to consume them with our diet.

Omega-6 are found in nuts, seeds and vegetable oils, such as corn or sunflower.

There are three main types of omega-3s:
eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)

EPA and DHA mainly come from animal-based foods. However, they are also present in algal.
Oily fish such as sardines or salmon is one of the primary sources of omega-3 but fish gets its omega-3 from microalgae. [2] However, be careful with fish because it may contain some pollutants such as PCBs, heavy metals and others that can increase the risk of stroke. [3]

Plant sources of omega-3 include walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds, canola oils. However, plant sources mainly contain ALA. Although our body can convert some ALA into EPA and then to DHA but this conversion is not easy and our body converts only a small amount. [2]

So, one of the best sources of omega-3 are algal omega-3 DHA and EPA supplements.

Read this post to learn more about omega-3 recommendations based on science and how much of omega-3 should you take.

2. Saturated fats

Saturated fats are mostly found in animal products such as meat and dairy.

3. Trans fats

Small amounts of trans fats occur naturally in some animal products. Also, trans fats are man-made and created by a process called hydrogenation. It is often used by food manufacturers to help prolong shelf life. This process has been banned in the U.S., since it can raise your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and lower your HDL (“good”) cholesterol.

A systematic review says that replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) or high-quality carbohydrates will lower coronary heart disease (CHD) events. [4]

Another systematic review of 37 guidelines, 108 systematic reviews and 20 RCTs says that there’s high evidence showing that foods high in unsaturated and low in saturated and trans fatty acids (e.g. rapeseed/canola oil), with added plant sterols/stanols, and high in soluble fiber (e.g. oats, barley, and psyllium) caused at least moderate reductions in LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. [5]

Is having 6 pack abs healthy based on science?

So, is having 6 pack abs healthy based on science?
Well, scientific research says that daily recommended intake of fat should be somewhere between 20-35% of total calorie intake. Low fat intakes (< 15%–17% of energy) are generally not recommended for active individuals, because it may decrease energy and nutrient intake and exercise performance. [1]

However, you need to have approximately 10% of body fat in order to have visible 6 pack abs.

So, it looks like having a 6 pack abs is not very healthy for us based on science.


So, is having 6 pack abs healthy based on science? Well, it looks like scientific research shows that having 6 pack abs is not very healthy for us. Having 6 pack abs requires having about 10% of body fat while scientific research recommends having 20-35% of fat.

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