What is visceral fat. Or why the belly grows and how to get rid of belly fat?

Most of the fat accumulates under the skin. You can see and feel it. But fat also accumulates around the organs. We don't feel it, but it can cause a lot of problems.

Belly fat

There are three types of fat:

  1. Subcutaneous fat – the layer of fat directly under our skin;
  2. Visceral fat is the fat that surrounds the organs in our stomach;
  3. Triglycerides are fats that circulate in our blood.


visceral fat

Visceral is the most dangerous because if there are too many of it, it causes many health risks.

Let's talk more about it.

 

What is visceral body fat?

Visceral fat (also called "hidden" fat) is fat that is located around organs deep in the abdominal cavity, for example — around the liver, intestines, stomach, blood vessels...

Visceral fat makes up about one-tenth of all fat stored in the body, and when there is a lot of it, it makes the stomach bulge or gives a person an "apple" shape.

Visceral fat is sometimes called "active fat" because it can actively increase the risk of serious health problems.

Why?

Because visceral fat produces chemicals and hormones that can be toxic to our body.

Even in thin people, the presence of visceral fat poses a number of health risks.

 

What causes visceral fat?

Visceral fat, like subcutaneous fat, is formed when more calories (energy) are taken in with food than are expended.

That is if you like to eat, but there is no physical activity, "reserves" will begin to form.

How much "reserves" will be built up in the form of subcutaneous fat and how much in the form of visceral fat largely depends on genetics — someone has a tendency to accumulate more fat in the abdomen and someone on the hips.

In women, the place where fat is stored can change as they age. Especially after menopause women's muscle mass decreases, the fat layer increases, and visceral fat in the abdomen is more common, even if they do not gain weight.

 

The most common causes of belly fat are:

  • Unhealthy diet:
    • Too much sugar - cakes and candies, and especially sweetened drinks (lemonades and packet juices) can cause weight gain, slow down the metabolism, and reduce the body's ability to "burn" fat;
    • Low-protein, high-carbohydrate diets/nutrition can also affect weight. Proteins help a person feel full longer. Those who do not include lean protein in their diet have a later onset of satiety, so they tend to eat more;
    • Trans fatty acids can cause inflammation and promote obesity. Trans fats are found in many ultra-processed foods, including fast food and baked goods - muffins, cookies, crackers...
  • Too much alcohol. Excessive alcohol consumption can cause a variety of health problems, including liver disease and inflammation. A 2015 report on alcohol consumption and obesity found that excessive alcohol consumption causes weight gain around the abdomen in men, but research results are conflicting for women;
  • Lack of physical activity and a sedentary lifestyle makes it difficult to get rid of excess fat, especially in the abdominal area;
  • Stress. When we experience stress, the level of cortisol (the stress hormone) in our body increases, and this can affect our metabolism since stress is often relieved by food. Extra calories are taken and "stored in reserve". Including in the abdominal area;
  • Genetics. There are studies showing that genes can influence both our behavior and our metabolism, as well as the risk of developing diseases associated with obesity;
  • Bad sleep. Several studies have linked weight gain to sleep duration. Short sleep duration is associated with increased food intake, and if we eat too much, fat is formed. Lack of sleep can also lead to unhealthy eating habits, such as emotional eating;
  • Smoking. Smoking is not considered a direct cause of belly fat, but it is considered a risk factor. Some studies show that although the obesity trend is the same in smokers and non-smokers, smokers form more abdominal and visceral fat than non-smokers.
 

Health risks

Visceral fat in the abdominal area is a sign of metabolic syndrome. A metabolic syndrome is a group of disorders that include high blood pressure, obesity, high cholesterol, and insulin resistance. Together, they increase the risk of stroke, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.

Too much visceral fat in the abdomen can also cause:

  • Dementia;
  • Cancer;
  • Asthma;
  • Liver diseases;
  • Gallbladder diseases and gout;
  • Fertility problems;
  • Pain in the lower back;
  • Osteoarthritis.
 

How to find out if you have visceral fat?

The only way to accurately diagnose visceral fat is CT or MRI scan. However, these are expensive and time-consuming procedures.

An easier way to diagnose visceral fat is to measure your waist. Waist circumference is a good indicator of how much fat you have around the organs in your abdomen.

In women, the risk of chronic diseases increases if the waist circumference is 80 cm or more and in men – 94 cm or more. These measurements do not apply to children or pregnant women.

Also BMI (body mass index) is a good way to determine if your body weight is healthy for your height.

 

Other diagnostic methods:

  • Waist to hip ratio (WHR). Measurements are made as follows:
    • Measure your waist at the narrowest point while standing straight. Usually, it's just above the navel;
    • While standing straight, measure your hip/buttock circumference at the widest point;
    • The WHR value is obtained by dividing the waist circumference by the hip circumference. The waist-to-hip ratio of more than 0.85 in women and 0.90 in men indicates abdominal obesity.
  • Waist-to-height ratio (WHtR). WHtR is considered a more reliable indicator than WHR, Body mass index (BMI), and Body Shape Index (ABSI). To calculate WHtR, divide the waist circumference by your height. It is considered that the ideal WHtR is no more than 0.50.
 

How to reduce visceral fat?

The best way to reduce visceral fat is to lose excess weight.

The good news is that with a healthy diet and physical activity, visceral fat goes away more easily than subcutaneous fat.

Regular exercise can also stop the return of visceral fat.

There are also medications, but research shows that the best way to reduce visceral fat is physical activity and healthy lifestyle (mainly healthy diet + physical activity + healthy sleep), but medication is not very effective.

Visceral fat cannot be reduced with liposuction!

 

In conclusion

Once again - READ THE LABELS!

The risk of developing various health problems is higher if there is more fat in the belly.

The main reasons for the increase in visceral fat mass are poor nutrition, lack of physical activity, and short or poor sleep.

Yes, genetics too, but even if you can't change your genetics or age, you can reduce the risks of many diseases by changing your lifestyle and dietary habits.

Try it - you will not only get a stronger and more attractive figure but also improve your well-being and self-confidence.

The quality of your life will improve!

 

Sources:

On the origin of obesity: identifying the biological, environmental and cultural drivers of genetic risk among human populations

Gene-nutrient interactions and susceptibility to human obesity

From genetics and epigenetics to the future of precision treatment for obesity

The Microbiome and Risk for Obesity and Diabetes

Waist Size Matters

Metabolic alterations following visceral fat removal and expansion

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