Fat can show up in different parts of our bodies. But when it comes to our health, there’s one place where fat is especially dangerous.
Visceral fat is a hidden health issue that many of us don’t know about. Unlike jiggly subcutaneous fat that you can see and touch, visceral fat is located deep in your belly and wraps around your vital organs. You can’t see it or touch it, but it’s there and can pose serious health risks like stroke, some cancers, type 2 diabetes, and more.
How to tell if you have it
“The best approach to determining if you have visceral fat is to measure your waist. Waist circumference is a good indicator of the presence of visceral fat. For women, over 35 inches and for men, over 40 inches are good predictors of visceral fat,” explains Lisa Richards, a nutritionist and author of the Candida Diet.
Another way to see if you have a high percentage of visceral fat is to measure your waist-to-hip ratio using a measuring tape. Just divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement. The higher risk for having visceral fat for women is a waist-to-hip ratio at or above 0.85, while for males, at or above 0.90.
What Causes Visceral Fat
“Visceral fat could be caused by lack of exercise, overeating, or a combination of both. Also drinking alcohol can contribute to visceral fat, especially in men according to research. Also getting older, as we age, we tend to lose muscle mass, and gain more fat mass, therefore an increase in visceral fat can accompany it,” explains Roxana Ehsani, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and National Media Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Stress is another factor that can cause a build-up of visceral fat. When a person gets stressed, the stress hormone cortisol gets activated, and when activated, it can cause us to overeat, and eventually causes us to store visceral fat.
Lack of sleep can also cause us to develop more visceral fat overtime. When we don’t sleep enough, it can cause us to overeat, and reach for more caffeinated and sugary drinks and foods, in an effort to stay awake. If you constantly are not sleeping enough, you may quickly see a build-up of this unwanted visceral fat.
How to lose it
“Visceral fat is not difficult to lose, and there are a variety of lifestyle changes that you can make to target this type of fat. The first is in the food you eat. Studies have suggested that a diet low in refined carbohydrates can be effective for reducing visceral fat. This might seem contrary to what people think, as many would assume that a low-fat diet is the way to get rid of fat. When in reality, a diet low in refined carbohydrates can put your body into a state of “ketosis” and can be an effective way to regulate your blood sugar and insulin levels. By doing this, your body is able to focus more on performing its metabolic processes, one of which is the breakdown of fat for energy,” shares Dr. Mahmud Kara, MD Internal Medicine.
Another way is to avoid high-sugar, refined foods, and trans-fat as well as alcohol as these can contribute to increased inflammation in the body as well as difficulty with losing weight and fat in general.
Incorporate aerobic exercises such as jogging, running, walking, swimming, and other forms of cardio into your daily routine. Research has suggested that aerobic exercise effectively targets visceral fat. This is because aerobic exercise supports certain processes in the body like digestion, circulation, and metabolism, that can help speed up the loss of visceral fat storage.
Get enough sleep. Studies have suggested that “7-8 hours of sleep per night can reduce visceral fat by roughly 26%.” When the body has the proper chance to refresh itself, all of our organs and processes, such as our metabolism, are able to function at their best which can help with fat reduction.
How to Tell You’re Losing Visceral Fat
“You could keep track of your measurements. For example, if you decide to measure your waist-to-hip ratio, or waist circumference, keep a log of what these measurements were so you can track it. You could track these measurements once a week or even just once a month. This would be the easiest way to know when you are losing visceral fat,” shares Roxana Ehsani.
A perfectly flat stomach may not be within your reach, but certainly, a healthier body is.