What is Visceral Fat and How Can You Reduce It?
Body fat can be of several types, each with their own unique roles and properties. Among them, visceral fat is the most harmful since it is responsible for a lot of serious and potentially life-threatening medical conditions. So, what is visceral fat and why is it so dangerous? Also, how can you reduce visceral fat?
What is Visceral Fat?
Visceral fat is body fat that stored within the abdominal cavity and is therefore stored around a number of important internal organs such as the liver, pancreas and intestines. Thus, it is very difficult to remove surgically.
It is sometimes referred to as ‘active fat’ because research has shown that this type of fat influences hormone function.
What types of fat do we store?
Based on how and where our body stores fat, we can categorize stored fat into two types: visceral and subcutaneous fat.
It is important to define the difference between visceral and subcutaneous fat. The fat we store just under our skin is subcutaneous fat. Subcutaneous fat is that fat that we may be able to feel on our arms and legs.
A growing belly can be the result of both types of fat. Although subcutaneous fat definitely contributes to a growing belly, we may also be storing significant quantities of fat within our abdomen where our organs reside. This intra-abdominal fat is our visceral fat.
Visceral Fat and Insulin Resistance
Carrying a high amount of visceral fat can lead to insulin resistance. It can also lead to impaired glucose tolerance as well as type 2 diabetes. Researchers have found that it secretes a protein called retinol-binding protein 4 (RBP4). RBP4 has been demonstrated to cause an increase in insulin resistance. To know more on obesity and insulin resistance, click here!
What Are the Health Risks Associated with Visceral Fat?
All of us will have a certain amount of such body fat, but those of us with a larger quantity may have a higher risk of certain health conditions. These include:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Heart diseases
- Breast cancer
- Colorectal cancer
- Alzheimer’s disease
How Can I Tell If I Have Too Much Visceral Fat?
CT scans and bio-electrical impedance machines (machines which use an electrical current to differentiate between fat tissues and ascertain the amount of fat in the body) are the most accurate methods to measure visceral fat levels. However, these methods are very costly and are generally out of reach for general purposes.
A relatively good indicator is to take a circumference measurement of the waist and hip and calculate the waist to hip ratio. This is an easy but less precise way to measure. Simply measure the circumference of the waist and hip with a tape measure (around the largest point) and then divide the waist measurement by the hip measurement. If the number is worse than 1.0 for men or 0.85 for women, then they are considered to have excessive visceral fat. For instance, for a man a ratio of 36/40 is good.
According to Harvard University, around 10% of our total fat is likely to be stored as visceral fat. However, if you are overweight and carry more body fat than recommended for your height and age, it is likely that you are also storing more visceral fat in your body. The ideal waistline for men is 90 cm and for women is 80 cm.
How Do I Reduce My Visceral Fat Levels?
Elevate Your Heart Rate
Exercise for at least an hour every day. This kind of body fat responds well to cardio and endurance training such as running, biking, jogging and swimming. Your body breaks down the excess fat when you exercise daily. To know more about why it is important to exert your body with exercise, click here.
Eat a well-balanced diet
Eat a well-balanced diet high in whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables. Also, include lean proteins and dietary fibers in your diet. Dietary fibers are particularly important to ensure good gut health. Additionally, limit the consumption of added sugars and alcohol since these are more likely to end up as visceral fat in the body.
Destress your Life
Stress affects the body in a variety of ways and can also increase this kind of body fat. Stress leads to the release of a hormone called cortisol. Excess cortisol in the body promotes overeating. This hormone increases insulin levels which drop your blood sugar levels. This increases your appetite for sugary and fatty foods. As a result, you gain more abdominal fat.
To reduce stress try meditation or exercising, get enough sleep, avoid negativity and remain cheerful.
Thus, it is important to reduce visceral fat in your body to prevent serious health complications. It is usually preventable. Maintaining a healthy, active and stress-free life is the key to preventing excess fat buildup in your body no matter its type.