All You Need To Know About Visceral Fat

Hidden inside our belly and wrapping around important organs is visceral fat. An active phantom that poses serious health risks. Learn more about this type of fat and the measures to manage it.

While it’s more often associated with adverse health effects, fat is an essential part of our body’s functions. Nevertheless, some fats can indeed be extremely dangerous and put your health at risk. Case in point: visceral fat. While trans fatty acids and saturated fat are more commonly known as the dangerous types of fat, visceral fat is arguably “scarier.” It’s not that jiggly bulk stored underneath our skin or around our arms, belly and feet that we can feel. That’s subcutaneous fat, a normally harmless type of fat that, surprisingly, may help protect our body against certain diseases. Visceral fat is oftentimes, if not always, invisible, hiding inside our belly and surrounding important organs, including the intestines and liver.

Just like some other types of fat, visceral fat is a result of poor diet, mainly frequent consumption of simple carbohydrates and
food or drinks high in added sugar. It’s usually difficult to lose and manifests itself in the abdominal area. Alcohol consumption also plays an important role in the development of visceral fat, especially for men. Bad eating patterns and a sedentary lifestyle further contribute to the development of visceral fat. However, some contributing factors are out of our control. The genetic makeup of some people allow fat to be stored around their belly instead of the hips. Age also plays a role in the development of visceral fat. Gender is also a contributing factor, with visceral fat more commonly found in men than in women.

Visceral fat actively puts our health at serious risk. First of all, it produces more toxic hormones and chemicals, thus elevating existing health risks. It is commonly thought to be a sign of metabolic syndrome—a group of disorders including insulin resistance, obesity and high cholestrols. These disorders in turn, can lead to several degenerative diseases such as heart disease, type-2 diabetes, and stroke. Too much visceral fat in your belly can also result in a plethora of other diseases or disorders, from liver disease and asthma to cancer and gall bladder problems. Even worse, visceral fat is known to lead to high blood pressure and even fertility problems. Furthermore, visceral fat increases the risk of dementia. Mostly affecting older adults, the condition can last for years and adversely affect daily functioning. Last but not least, build ups of visceral fat can cause lower back pain and osteoarthritis, which mostly affects joints in your hip, fingers and knees.

Unlike subcutaneous fat that can be seen or felt, visceral fat is notorious for its invisibility. You cannot tell where and how much fat in your body without the help of imaging tests such as a CT scan or MRI. That being said, there are simpler ways to get a rough estimate.

According to Harvard Health, around 10 percent of a person’s total body fat is visceral fat. By counting overall body fat, we can determine—or rather estimate—how much visceral fat is stored in our body. Waist measurement can also help gauge the risk as waist circumference makes a decent indicator of the amount of fat hidden in our belly and around important organs.If the circumference measures 94 cm or more (80 cm or more for women), you might be at a greater risk.

Another method you can try is determining your waist-to-hip ratio: divide your waist size by the hip size. Ratios of 0.94 for men (and 0.88 for women) tend to correlate to a critical amount of visceral fat. A normal ratio is less than 0.9 for men and 0.84 for women. However, several studies note that this method may be less effective than a basic waist measurement.

Your body shape can also give you a clue regarding the risk you might face. An apple- shaped body (common in men) might mean more fat, and some researches show that upper body fat poses greater harm to our health.

Tackling visceral fat is not necessarily complicated or difficult. By knowing the contributing factors, we can determine the necessary steps to take. Lifestyle changes are the first thing to focus on. Eat a balanced diet and increase your vitamin D and calcium intake. Try to incorporate more leafy greens into your diet and enjoy lean protein sources such as sardines and tofu. Some dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt, especially low-fat variants, are also beneficial. Another important change would be reducing or outright stopping the consumption of sugary food and drinks.
Working out is the next step you can take as staying active can be the key here. Make a real effort to do moderate exercise at least 30 minutes every day. In addition to working out, many simple but physically-demanding activities can make a difference. For instance, instead of taking a cab or driving to work, walk or ride a bike; instead of taking the elevator, take the stairs.

Visceral fat is indeed a hidden phantom in our body that can lead to an array of serious health risks. However, with the proper lifestyle changes, better eating habits and good exercise, beating the monster is not impossible.