Visceral fat is stored in a person’s abdominal cavity and is also known as ‘active fat’ as it influences how hormones function in the body. An excess of visceral fat can, therefore, have potentially dangerous consequences.
Because visceral fat is in the abdominal cavity, it is close to many vital organs, such as the pancreas, liver, and intestines.
The higher the amount of visceral fat a person stores, the more at risk they are for certain health complications, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Fast facts on visceral fat:
- Excess visceral fat can cause serious health problems.
- Exercising for a minimum of 30 minutes each day will help to burn visceral fat.
- Having some body fat is perfectly healthy and normal.
Imaging scans, such as computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans are the most accurate way to determine whether someone has visceral fat.
However, because conducting these scans is both expensive and time-consuming, a doctor is more likely to diagnose visceral fat by asking a person questions about their diet and lifestyle. The doctor will likely also measure the person’s overall body fat to get an idea of what percentage is likely to be visceral fat.
According to Harvard Health, 10 percent of a person’s total body fat will be visceral fat.
Another useful way to determine how much visceral fat a person is carrying is to measure the size of their waist.
A woman whose waist measures 35 inches or more is likely to have excess visceral fat. This might increase her risk of developing some of the health problems linked to visceral fat. The same is true of a man whose waist measures 40 inches or more.
If a doctor uses an MRI scan or body fat analyzer to measure a person’s visceral fat, the result will fall somewhere on a scale between 1 and 59.
Visceral fat levels should be under 13 on this scale. Anything above 13 on this scale means that a person will need to think about making immediate changes to their diet and lifestyle. Making these changes will help reduce the person’s visceral fat levels to a healthier number.
Health risks of carrying excess visceral fat include:
- heart attacks
- heart disease
- type 2 diabetes
- raised blood pressure
- breast and colorectal cancer
- Alzheimer’s disease
High levels of visceral fat can result in increased insulin resistance, which may lead to glucose intolerance and even type 2 diabetes.
The dangers of storing excess visceral fat can be extreme and immediate, so it is essential to make diet and lifestyle changes as soon as possible as losing weight can help a person reduce their levels of visceral fat.
Exercise is an excellent way to reduce visceral fat. People should include both cardiovascular exercise, which raises a person’s heart rate, and strength training, which improves muscle size, into their routines.
Cardio exercise could include:
- circuit training
Strength training could include:
Stress can also play a role in storing excess visceral fat. This is because when someone is stressed, their body releases a hormone called cortisol, which increases how much visceral fat a person’s body stores. Some doctors recommend that people with high levels of visceral fat try to reduce their stress levels.
Relaxation techniques, such as meditation, deep breathing, and other stress management tactics, can be beneficial and help a person lose visceral fat more efficiently.
A healthful diet that is low in sugar laden, fatty foods will also help a person lose weight and shift excess visceral fat. A healthful diet should include:
- lean proteins
- fruit and vegetables
- complex carbohydrates, such as sweet potatoes, beans, and whole grains.
Boiling, steaming, baking, and grilling foods will help to make meals healthier and lower in fat.
A man with a waistline that measures 40 inches or more or a woman whose waistline measures 35 inches or more is likely to have stores of visceral fat.
Men and women who fall into these categories might want to make an appointment with a doctor to have levels of visceral fat measured, discuss potential risks, and get advice on how to make health and lifestyle changes to reduce visceral fat levels.
Some doctors may carry out some blood and other tests, or refer individuals to a nutritionist or dietitian.
Visceral fat is fat that we cannot see, so it is not always easy to know whether a person has an excess of it. Because the associated health risks can be severe, it is essential for those who suspect their visceral fat levels are high to seek advice from a health professional.
Usually, it is possible to avoid high levels of visceral fat by leading a healthy and active lifestyle. Those who do store dangerous amounts of visceral fat can reduce their levels by making positive changes to their lifestyle. Changes include eating a nutritious, low-fat diet, increasing the amount of exercise, and lowering stress levels.
- Obesity / Weight Loss / Fitness
- Abdominal fat and what to do about it. (2015, October 9)
- Frayn, K. N. (2000, March). Visceral fat and insulin resistance — causative or correlative? [Abstract]. British Journal of Nutrition, 83(S1), S71–S77
- Taking aim at belly fat. (2010, August)
- Understand. (n.d.)
- Visceral fat (active fat). (n.d.)
- Waist size matters. (n.d.)
- Weight loss tips. (2016, January 2)