Published On By Rachel Nall

Visceral FatMany people are focused on fighting excess fat. One type of fat, called visceral fat, is risky because it could gather around your belly organs and can cause serious health problems.

Unlike the fat you can see just under your skin, visceral fat is hidden deep inside your belly, making it more harmful.

While losing weight generally shows progress, it's crucial to know specific signs indicating you're losing visceral fat.

Recognizing these signs shows you're on the right track and may help you understand if your diet and exercise routines are working well.

What is Visceral Fat?

Visceral fat is a body fat developed deep within the abdominal cavity. It surrounds vital organs like the liver, stomach, pancreas, and intestine.

This type of fat is usually referred to as “toxic fat” as it produces harmful chemicals and hormones that contribute to the development of conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

Visceral fat is considered active as it can release substances that affect your body's functions. Some level of visceral fat is necessary to cushion and protect organs. However, excessive amounts could lead to serious health issues.

Excess visceral fat may pose an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, insulin resistance, dementia, cancer, fertility problems, lower back pain, osteoarthritis, liver diseases, type 2 diabetes, and other severe medical conditions.

Signs Of Visceral Fat

Symptoms of visceral fat can appear as an increase in waist circumference beyond 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men.

People with excess visceral fat often exhibit an apple-shaped body, where fat is predominantly concentrated around the abdomen rather than the hips.

Moreover, a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher may indicate an accumulation of visceral fat.

Other symptoms associated with high visceral fat levels include insulin resistance, high blood pressure, and elevated cholesterol levels.

Measuring Of Visceral Fat

  • Waist Measurement

    Wrap a measuring tape around the waist above your hip bones. For women, a measurement of 35 inches or higher indicates a higher risk of health problems related to visceral fat. For men, the threshold is 40 inches or more. Having excess waist measurements can signal an increased possibility of developing diabetes and heart disease.

    Thus, if your waist measurement falls within the alarming range, consult a healthcare provider for complete assessment and guidance on managing visceral fat levels.

  • Waist-to-hip Ratio

    Assessing the waist-to-hip ratio could help you evaluate abdominal obesity and potential health risks associated with visceral fat accumulation.

    Abdominal obesity, indicated by an elevated waist-to-hip ratio, could also lead to inflammation, insulin resistance, and metabolic complications.

    To analyze your waist-to-hip ratio, follow these steps:

    • Measure the waist and hip size by wrapping a tape measure around the widest area of your hips.
    • Divide your waist size by the hip size.
    • A waist-to-hip ratio of 0.90 in men indicates abdominal obesity and higher than 0.85 in women.
  • Body Mass Index (BMI)

    Measuring Body Mass Index (BMI) provides a quantitative assessment of a person's body fat percentage based on their height and weight.

    Here are some points to consider about BMI:

    • BMI Calculation: Body mass index is calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms by the height of the squared meters. A BMI of 30 or more indicates that you could be overweight and have a higher visceral fat level.
    • Interpreting BMI: A BMI between 25 and 29.9 is viewed as overweight, while a Body mass index of 30 or higher is referred to as obese. These higher BMI ranges are often associated with increased visceral fat accumulation and related health risks.
    • Consulting a Healthcare Provider: If your BMI falls within the overweight or obese range, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional for a more comprehensive assessment of your visceral fat levels. They can provide personalized suggestions and strategies to help you manage and reduce visceral fat effectively.
  • Waist-height Ratio

    The Waist-height Ratio is an effective method for assessing abdominal fat distribution. You can determine your healthy ratio by dividing your waist size by height.

    A ratio above 0.5 is considered healthy for both men and women. Maintaining a Waist-height Ratio below 0.5 is crucial for overall health, indicating a healthier abdominal fat distribution. Thus, this method may help accurately distinguish between visceral and subcutaneous fat.

    To illustrate the importance of the Waist-height Ratio, consider the following table:

    Waist-Height Ratio Interpretation
    Less than 0.5 Healthy abdominal fat distribution
    0.5 – 0.6 Moderate abdominal fat distribution
    Over 0.6 High abdominal fat distribution

Causes Of Visceral Fat

Genetic predisposition, dietary choices, physical activity levels, and stress responses collectively contribute to visceral fat accumulation in the body.

  • Genetic Predisposition: Your body shape and how it stores fat are influenced by genetics, impacting visceral fat accumulation.
  • Dietary Choices: A diet high in fatty foods and sugars provides the foundation for visceral fat increase.
  • Physical Activity Levels: An inactive lifestyle contributes to the development of visceral fat due to the lack of calorie expenditure.

Moreover, stress also plays a significant role in visceral fat accumulation. When stressed, the body produces excess cortisol, which triggers visceral fat storage as part of the “fight-or-flight” response mechanism.

Tips To Reduce Visceral Fat

  1. Regular Physical Activity

    Engaging in physical activity may help manage visceral fat levels and promote overall health. It may help promote calorie burning and improve metabolic rate.

    Aim for at least 30 minutes of routine exercise, including cardio, strength training, or high-intensity interval training (HIIT).

    HIIT workouts switch between intense bursts of action and short recovery periods, combining resistance and aerobic training to enhance fat burning.

    Cardio exercises like running, swimming, or cycling might effectively burn overall body fat, including visceral fat. Strength training like weightlifting and bodyweight exercises can help build muscle mass, increase metabolism, and assist in fat loss.

  2. Manage Stress Level

    Chronic stress could significantly impact visceral fat accumulation by triggering the discharge of cortisol, a hormone associated with storing excess fat around vital organs. Managing stress levels could help reduce visceral fat and improve overall health.

    Including stress-reducing techniques like yoga, meditation, deep breathing exercises, or engaging in hobbies could help lower cortisol levels and combat visceral fat accumulation.

    Here's a look at how stress impacts our bodies:

    Effects of Stress on Visceral Fat
    Increases cortisol levels
    Promotes fat storage around organs
    Triggers “fight-or-flight” response
  3. Intermittent Fasting

    Intermittent fasting is a structured eating pattern, alternating periods of eating and fasting. It may help reduce visceral fat levels and promote weight loss. Intermittent fasting may allow you to control your calorie intake by restricting your habit of binge eating.

    Here is a breakdown of the different intermittent fasting approaches:

    Intermittent Fasting Methods Description
    16/8 Method Includes continued fasting for 16 hours and eating within an 8-hour window daily
    5:2 Method Consists of eating daily for five days and restricting calorie intake for two non-consecutive days
    Eat-Stop-Eat Method Requires fasting for a full 24 hours once or twice a week
    Alternate-Day Fasting Involves alternating between regular eating and fasting every other day
  4. Quality Sleep

    Adequate sleep may help maintain overall health and may impact visceral fat accumulation in the body. It is essential for various bodily functions, including metabolism and hormone regulation.

    Here are some points to consider regarding the relationship between quality sleep and visceral fat:

    • Regulates Hormones: Sleep deprivation could disrupt the balance of hormones in appetite regulation, potentially leading to overeating and weight gain, including visceral fat accumulation.
    • Promotes Metabolic Health: It could encourage better metabolic function, influencing how the body stores and uses fat, potentially reducing visceral fat levels.
    • Supports Weight Management: Getting sufficient sleep could improve weight management, making it more comfortable to maintain healthy body composition and reduce visceral fat.
  5. Balanced Diet

    When seeking to reduce visceral fat through dietary adjustments, consider the following:

    • Include a Balanced Diet: Focus on consuming lean proteins, whole grains, low-fat dairy, fruits, and vegetables. These foods may provide essential nutrients while supporting weight management and overall health.
    • Limit Unhealthy Choices: To target visceral fat, limit intake of trans fats, refined sugars, sodium, and processed foods. These items could contribute to weight gain and health issues when consumed excessively.
    • Consider Low-Carb Options: Low-carb diets like the ketogenic (keto) diet might benefit in reducing visceral fat. They can assist in short-term weight loss and metabolic improvements by encouraging the body to burn fat for energy.

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Health Risk Of Visceral Fat

Excessive visceral fat poses significant health risks and is strongly associated with a range of severe medical conditions.

Some of the health risks with high levels of visceral fat include:

  • Increased chances of cardiovascular diseases such as heart problems and stroke.
  • There is a higher possibility of causing insulin resistance, which might cause Type 2 diabetes.
  • Visceral fat is linked to the production of inflammatory proteins that can narrow blood vessels and raise blood pressure.

Difference Between Visceral Fat And Subcutaneous Fat

  • Subcutaneous fat: It is stored just beneath the skin and can be visibly pinched.
  • Visceral fat: It is located deep behind the abdominal muscles, surrounding vital organs like the stomach and liver.

Subcutaneous and visceral fat could add to belly fat accumulation. However, having more visceral fat increases the risk of developing metabolic disorders compared to having more subcutaneous fat.

Visceral fat poses greater health risks because it's hidden deep within the abdomen and has more metabolic activity. Subcutaneous fat, on the other hand, acts as a protective cushion and energy reserve.

Having excess visceral fat can lead to various health issues, like type 2 Diabetes, hypertension, insulin resistance, and dyslipidemia. Differences in the deposits of fatty acids may contribute to these variations in adipose depots.

When To Consider A Healthcare Provider?

You must consult a doctor as they can help evaluate vital signs like blood pressure and heart rate, which can indicate health risks associated with excess visceral fat.

The doctors may conduct blood and urine tests to provide further insights into your personal health condition. They may help determine the extent of visceral fat accumulation and its potential impact on overall health.

Regular check-ups and screenings are essential for monitoring visceral fat levels and overall health status. You can proactively work towards implementing strategies to reduce visceral fat and lower the associated health risks by seeking medical advice early on.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Can Certain Medications Affect Visceral Fat Levels?
    Drugs like corticosteroids, some antipsychotics, and insulin could contribute to visceral fat accumulation. Thus, it's essential to consult healthcare providers to monitor and manage visceral fat when taking such medications.
  2. Are There Specific Exercises That Target Visceral Fat More Effectively?
    There are no targeted exercises to reduce visceral fat. However, aerobic workouts, strength training, and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) may help you target visceral fat efficiently. These exercises may help reduce abdominal fat and improve overall health.
  3. How Does Age Impact the Accumulation of Visceral Fat?
    Age impacts visceral fat accumulation as metabolism slows, muscle mass decreases, and hormonal changes occur. Older people may store more visceral fat due to lifestyle changes and decreased physical activity. Regular exercise and healthy habits are crucial in managing age-related visceral fat.
  4. Can Hormonal Imbalances Contribute to Visceral Fat Gain?
    Hormonal imbalances could contribute to visceral fat gain, impacting metabolism and fat distribution. Hormones like cortisol and insulin may influence visceral fat accumulation. Thus, addressing hormonal balance through lifestyle changes and medical interventions could help manage visceral fat levels effectively.

Conclusion

Losing visceral fat can be frustrating and challenging since it's not easily visible. However, changes in your clothes fitting, improved energy levels, and enhanced blood vessel functioning may indicate visceral fat loss.

If you seek a healthy life, including daily physical activity, eating a balanced diet, and restricting processed food consumption, you can support your goals.

People often neglect the benefits of quality sleep without knowing that it influences fat accumulation in the body. Getting enough sleep and managing stress levels may enhance your weight reduction goals.

However, you can also evaluate your progress in losing visceral fat by following the above-mentioned methods to see if your hard work has paid off.

If, after trying these techniques, you do not experience any change in your fat level, talk to your doctor to learn about the underlying causes. Your doctor can diagnose and suggest a weight loss plan and also create a meal schedule tailored to your specific needs.

Disclaimer
  • The information in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice.
  • It is not recommended to disregard/delay seeking professional medical advice or treatment because of what you read or accessed through this article.
  • The results may vary from individual to individual.
  • It is recommended to consult your doctor for any underlying medical conditions or if you are on any prescribed medicines before trying any tips or strategies.

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