Visceral fat is the official name for the fat around our organs. It is not the same as subcutaneous fat found under the skin (body fat). Visceral fat and subcutaneous fat may, or not, appear together, but it is the Visceral fat that is a real trouble maker.
It causes metabolic syndrome and chronic inflammation that leads to heart disease and diabetes, just to name a couple out of many other conditions it causes. It literally envelopes the vital organs, the kidneys, liver, stomach, and others, making them to work harder.
Visceral Fat also contributes to high blood pressure by squeezing the kidneys, working them and wearing them out. It also drains directly into the liver where it infiltrates, replacing functional tissue with fat (fatty liver).
Excess visceral fat can also lead to cancer or even sexual dysfunction.
If you do carry excess visceral fat, the fat cells will send a signal to your bones to actually begin to break down, which is a precursor to Osteoporosis.
Dr. Travis Stork talks about why having a lean belly is so dangerous in the video to the left.
Visceral fat is related to eating too many easily digested carbohydrates – simple sugars and processed starches, by being biochemically programmed to take up extra glucose and turn it into even more visceral fat!
Its job is to take carbohydrates out of the system when the liver stores are full.
Studies suggest that saturated fat and drinking large amounts of any alcohol at once (binge drinking) leads to visceral fat.
Studies also show that once we turn 40, we can easily accumulate 1 lb of visceral fat per year unless we take steps to fight that trend. The only way to combat this is through the correct type of exercise and by eating nutritionally balanced diet that supports your muscle mass and does not store fat!
To stop storing Visceral Fat or start reducing it, here is what you can do:
Increase your exercise. Resistance workouts like HIIT (High Intensity Interval Resistance Training) have been especially found to reduce Visceral Fat as well as overall body fat.
Avoid alcohol. We all know the expression “beer belly”. That is an alternative expression for visceral fat in men in particular from too much alcohol. So, reduce it or, ideally, avoid completely – it is a poison.
Stop eating foods that contain Trans Fats. They are saturated fats that occur in small amounts in nature, but became widely produced industrially from vegetable fats for use in margarine, snack food, packaged baked goods, and frying fast food. Body’s tolerance for trans fats is almost ZERO and they end up stored as visceral fat. Trans fats raise your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and lower your good (HDL) cholesterol levels. Eating trans fats increases your risk of developing heart disease and stroke.
Improve your hormonal balance as your hormones can influence where your body stores the fat. As an example, in men, low testosterone is associated with high visceral fat, while, in women, high testosterone and lower amount of estrogen cause visceral fat to rise (during Menopause, in particular). Also, managing your Cortisol hormone levels is crucial. Cortisol is a stress hormone, and whilst useful in certain situations, chronically high levels of cortisol have shown to contribute to storing fat around the abdominal area. Drinking alcohol, not getting enough sleep or over training are one of the factors that cause body stress and cortisol to spike, which causes weight gain and, in particular, body storing visceral fat.
Get optimal amount of sleep. Research shows that not enough sleep or sleeping too much can cause visceral fat to rise. It has a lot to do with cortisol level mentioned above. So, get enough sleep. 7-8 hours per night is a good aim.
Diet and what you eat and when all play a big part in how your body stores fat. Eating clean diet, free from added sugar, salt and preservatives and other toxins – together with the right balance of lean protein, healthy fats and healthy carbohydrates – in the right frequency – can all help balance our hormones, increase metabolism and reduce (or, ideally, eliminate) any fat storing taking place.
Are You TOFI? Thin Outside, Fat Inside
While having a large waist circumference is an obvious sign of an accumulated visceral fat, even slim people can still have it. Studies suggest that up to 4 people out of 10 are TOFI, Thin Outside, Fat Inside.
So, you may appear slim, but still have large amount of visceral ft, which puts your health at risk. In my opinion, when dealing with all my clients, this is the one stat that I take most seriously.
Professor Jimmy Bell, Head of the molecular imaging group at the Medical Research Council’s centre at the Imperial College, London, said:
“…this hidden fat could trigger heart conditions and diabetes. The important message is people should not be happy just because they look thin, it is not about looking fit or looking thin, it is about being healthy. You can look healthy, but still have a lot of internal fat, which can have a detrimental effect on your health. Even apparently slim people can have internal fat collected inside or around the liver, gut, heart and pancreas, or streaked through underused muscles…”
Visceral fat is basically a predictor of health risk. It cannot be measured by the standard bathroom scale, but some better quality scanners are available if you are happy to invest to have this kind of measuring tool at home to keep your gauges.
Knowing the risks is the first step in improving your health. Feel free to reach out if you have any concerns about your health.
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