Visceral fat is a type of fat that is stored in the abdominal cavity. One of the dangers of visceral fat is its close proximity to many vital organs, including the intestines, pancreas, and stomach. Although some fat is healthy for the body, visceral fat only has a negative effect on the body. In fact, visceral fat is often referred to as “active fat” due to its detrimental nature in the body.
However, not all abdominal fat is visceral. Another type of belly fat, called subcutaneous fat, is stored underneath the skin and can also be found in other areas of our body, such as our arms and legs. This type of fat does not surround our vital organs as visceral fat does, making it far less harmful.
Why is visceral fat dangerous in the body?
Visceral fat can damage our general well-being in a number of ways, and there are various health risks associated with excess visceral fat. Potential health risks include:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Heart attack
- Type 2 diabetes (through increased insulin resistance)
- Neurodegenerative Diseases
Visceral fat is also linked to hormone imbalance, increased production of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) “bad” cholesterol, and decreased production of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) “good” cholesterol. Due to the numerous potential risks of excess visceral fat, it’s important to be conscious and aware of your visceral fat levels.
Testing Visceral Fat Levels
It’s easy to see and feel subcutaneous fat because it lives just under the skin. However, visceral fat lies within the abdominal cavity, making it out of sight and touch. This makes it difficult to measure without specific testing.
CT scans are needed to get an exact measurement of visceral fat levels. However, there are less expensive and minimally invasive methods that can provide a good indication of visceral fat levels.
Waist-to-hip ratio and waist circumference are two easy measurements that are commonly used to get an estimate of visceral fat in the body. A waist-to-hip ratio above 1 for men and above .85 for women indicates a high level of visceral fat. A waist circumference greater than 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women generally indicates high levels of visceral fat.
You can also use the tape measure included in the Choose Health kit to get an estimate of your visceral fat levels. Inflammation and insulin resistance should be measured in conjunction with a waist-to-height measurement to give a better idea of how visceral fat levels are impacting your overall health.
How to Lose Visceral Fat
Visceral fat may be tough to lose, but lowering the amount of visceral fat in your body can dramatically decrease your risk for chronic disease. Getting rid of visceral fat all comes down to lifestyle change.
Exercise is a great place to start. Getting the heart rate up burns calories, which is essential to lose excess weight and lose fat. Someone new to exercise can see positive changes by incorporating 30 minutes of aerobic exercise like walking, running or biking per day.
Stress-reducing techniques are also helpful for shedding visceral fat. The amount of visceral fat stored by the body can be affected by stress levels. In short, the presence of cortisol, a stress hormone, causes the body to store more visceral fat. Practicing stress-reducing techniques like meditation and deep breathing may decrease cortisol in the body.
A healthy, well-balanced diet will also play a huge role in reducing visceral fat. Some of the most effective dietary changes include:
- Eliminating refined carbohydrates (sweets, juices, sugar, etc.)
- Eating plenty of lean protein (chicken, fish, lean beef)
- Increasing complex carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, and whole grains)
At this point, it should be clear that visceral fat is very harmful to your health. Fortunately, visceral fat is very receptive to lifestyle and dietary changes. Exercise, dieting and stress reduction techniques are all good options for those looking to reduce visceral fat.
By implementing these changes into your daily life, you will be taking the right steps to reduce visceral fat and improve general well-being.