In a world that often fixates on the outward appearance rather than inner health, the profound impact of obesity and high visceral fat on our well-being often lurks in the shadows. Beyond the superficial concerns of appearance, lies a complex interplay of factors that can significantly compromise our health. People are often obsessed about losing fat for weight loss, little knowing that fat loss is beyond just weight loss. We are not talking about the fat that surrounds your abdomen, but what surrounds the organs. You cannot see this fat, but it is the culprit when it comes to causing various health issues. This fat is called visceral fat.
So, before we talk about the health risks associated with excess visceral fat, let’s differentiate between two types of fats to lay the foundation and help you understand it better.
What is visceral fat and how is it different from subcutaneous fat (the fat surrounding your abdomen)?
Visceral fat can be found deep within the abdominal walls. It is the one that wraps your organs. While moderate visceral fat is healthy enough to protect your organs. However, having excessive visceral fat can be detrimental to your health. Visceral fat, also called “active fat”, plays a key role in the functioning of your body. Excess visceral fat can cause serious health issues, including diabetes, stroke and heart disease.
Visceral fat is often confused with subcutaneous fat. However, these two are different. While visceral fat surrounds the organs such as the liver and intestines, subcutaneous fat is the stored fat beneath your skin, the one you can touch and feel. Both visceral fat and subcutaneous fat make the belly fat.
How is visceral fat formed?
Some lifestyle-related and genetic factors can cause visceral fat. Even though genetics decide where and how you store fat, environmental factors such as your lifestyle affect the amount of fat you store.
Damaging effects of visceral fat
Visceral fat can make you prone to several health issues such as:
There are several medical conditions that we overlook just because of the fact that they have become more common than ever. Diabetes is one such disease that affects a significant number of people in the country.
Sadly, visceral fat can be a leading cause of diabetes.
As per studies, visceral fat makes a protein called retinol-binding protein 4. This protein increases insulin resistance in the body, ultimately leading to increased sugar levels in the blood. This eventually can cause diabetes.
Coronary artery disease
Excess visceral fat surrounds your organs, including the heart, leading to a number of cardiovascular issues, including coronary artery disease. As the fat around your heart sends substances into your coronary blood vessels, increasing your likeliness of developing coronary artery disease.
Hypertension, also called, high blood pressure is associated with high levels of visceral fat. Carrying excess visceral fat may increase your chance of high blood pressure, which is a big red flag for cardiovascular issues.
Visceral fat is a component of metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that includes high blood pressure, high blood sugar, abnormal cholesterol levels, and abdominal obesity. Having metabolic syndrome increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
Some studies suggest that high levels of visceral fat may be associated with an increased risk of certain cancers, including colorectal cancer, breast cancer, and pancreatic cancer. The exact mechanisms behind this association are still under investigation.
Excess visceral fat can lead to the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a condition in which fat collects in the liver. NAFLD can progress to more severe forms, such as non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), which can cause liver cirrhosis and liver failure.
Visceral fat has been linked to an increased risk of sleep apnoea, a condition in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep. Sleep apnoea is associated with various health problems, including cardiovascular disease and impaired cognitive function.
How do you tell if you have visceral fat?
As visceral fat cannot be seen, it can be difficult to know if you have excess visceral fat. However, you must note that visceral fat comprises about 10% of your body fat. You can calculate it by finding out the total body fat percentage and then taking off 10%. In case your body fat percentage is higher than recommended, then it is very likely your visceral fat range will be in excess.
Here are a few indicators:
Start by measuring your waist by placing an inch tape around your hip bones.
If you are a woman and your waist size is 35 inches or more, you have visceral fat. For men, this radius is 40 inches. Having a waist size above that number indicates that you have a high visceral fat.
You can measure it by dividing waist size by hip size. If you are a woman and the ratio is higher than 0.85, you have a high visceral fat. For men, the number is 0.85. Anything above this indicates the presence of visceral fat.
Body Mass Index (BMI):
BMI measures body fat based on height and weight. A BMI of 30 or more in both men and women indicates higher visceral fat.
Start by dividing waist size by height. A healthy ratio is no greater than 0.5 for both men and women.
How to reduce visceral fat?
Living a healthy lifestyle is how you reduce visceral fat. Increase your physical activity, exercise, and stay in a calorie deficit to reduce visceral fat.
Maintaining a healthy level of visceral fat is crucial for overall well-being. The risks associated with high visceral fat, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and various other health conditions, underscore the importance of adopting a healthy lifestyle.
Regular exercise, a balanced diet, stress management, and maintaining a healthy weight are key components in reducing visceral fat and mitigating associated health risks. As with any health-related concerns, it is advisable to consult with healthcare professionals for personalised guidance and interventions. Prioritising a healthy lifestyle can contribute not only to the reduction of visceral fat but also to overall health and longevity.