Man with excess visceral fat

Visceral Fat: Why It’s Dangerous and How to Lose It

Obesity is a huge public health issue today and is on the rise throughout the world. 

It’s estimated that more than 42% of people in America are considered to be clinically obese. That’s not the only issue concerning fat build up that we have to worry about in modern society, however. 

Spreading waistlines and visceral fat are also a big problem. Visceral fat buildup has several long-term health implications even in people who are not clinically obese but are carrying excess fat around the waist.

What is Visceral Fat?

Visceral fat is found around the abdominal organs such as the liver, pancreas, spleen, kidneys and stomach. All of us have some amount of this fat, even if we are very fit and slim.

  • A healthy amount of visceral fat in the average person is around 10%. 
  • A woman with a waist measurement of more than 35 inches and a man who has a waist bigger than 40 inches are likely to have excess visceral fat. 
  • The proximity of visceral fat to many vital organs in the body makes it more dangerous than subcutaneous fat, which is found below the skin. 
  • Visceral fat begins to increase when we have poor diets and eat too much of the wrong foods as well as get too little exercise. 
  • Stress can also play a role in the storage of visceral fat.

How is Visceral Fat Measured/Rated?

The most accurate way to determine how much visceral fat someone is carrying is to have an MRI or CT scan. This can be expensive, however, so doctors will generally assess someone by talking about diets and lifestyles as well as undertaking a physical examination. 

If an MRI scan is used, the results are rated between 1 and 59 for visceral fat. A healthy range would be around 13, so anything above this is seen as problematic and may require lifestyle changes. 

Someone who is not overweight and has a flat stomach may also have unhealthy levels of visceral fat. 

These individuals are termed ‘thin outside, fat inside’ and often maintain low levels of subcutaneous fat but do little or no exercise. Their increased level of visceral fat around areas such as the liver makes them equally susceptible to certain health problems.

Why is Visceral Fat so Dangerous?

Accumulation of visceral fat can have a big impact on how our bodies use insulin. This is a hormone that regulates carbs, how and where we store fat, process protein and also promotes the absorption of glucose into vital organs such as the liver. 

When we have a lot of visceral fat, this can make us insulin resistant, something which can directly lead to the development of health conditions such as type 2 diabetes

Excess visceral fat has also been shown to cause health conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and heart attack as well as breast and colorectal cancer. A fatty liver can cause inflammation and cell damage and stop this vital organ from working properly. 

The trouble is that we can develop visceral fat over a long time, perhaps decades, and not know that it is a big health problem. In some cases it’s only when a patient starts to suffer from the symptoms of heart disease or diabetes that they become aware of their high levels of visceral fat being an issue.

Tips on How to Lose Visceral Fat

Prevention is always better than cure and people need to take control of their health and cut down their visceral fat whatever age they are. 

The good news is that visceral fat can be reduced. The way to lose it essentially comes down to maintaining a healthy diet, cutting down on alcohol and undertaking plenty of exercise.

  • Exercise: This should be a mix of cardiovascular and strength training. Ideally people should try to get around 30 minutes of reasonably vigorous exercise each day. 
  • Diet: This is perhaps even more important than exercise, though individuals need to do both for the best effect. It’s essential to swap sugary and processed foods for healthy choices such as lean meats, fruits and vegetables. Sticking to complex carbs like lentils and sweet potatoes and reducing bread, pasta and starchy foods will also help. 
  • Stress: Lifestyle changes aren’t just about diet and exercise. When we get stressed, we produce a hormone called cortisol which has been shown to increase the storage of visceral fat. Cutting stress in someone’s life, therefore, can help reduce fat development.

 

Even if someone has been diagnosed with a condition such as type 2 diabetes, taking these steps to improve health and reduce visceral fat can make a big difference to their health and the outcomes of the disease. 

For all of us, getting to grips with and controlling abdominal fat sooner rather than later can have a huge impact on our future wellbeing. Regular exercise and a good diet should ensure our vital organs remain fat-free and healthy well into old age.