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Visceral Fat – Your Hidden Enemy

May 27th, 2021

Location, location, location.

This well-established adage applies to more than just real estate. In fact, it’s relevant to something that can have a significant impact on your health.

We’re talking about fat. Specifically, the fat that accumulates around the midsection as you get older. Otherwise known as belly fat.

But all fat isn’t created equal. The fat stored around your midsection can be nothing more than unsightly…or it can put your health at risk.

Subcutaneous vs. Visceral Fat

Your body stores fat in two different ways:

  • Subcutaneous fat is stored right beneath the surface of your skin.
  • Visceral fat is stored at a deeper level, beneath your abdominal wall.

What most of us think of as fat is actually subcutaneous fat. It makes up about 90% of your total body fat. It can be stored around your midsection, but it can also be stored around your hips, thighs, and other places on your body.

Apart from affecting how you look, subcutaneous fat is actually fairly benign.

Visceral fat is a different story. Because visceral fat is stored deeper in your body where it surrounds your internal organs, you may not even know you have it. And it is anything but benign.

What’s Bad About Visceral Fat?

Recent research has revealed that fat isn’t as inert as we once thought it was. Fat is actually an endocrine organ that can secrete substances into your bloodstream.

Unfortunately, the substances secreted by visceral fat can be harmful. These substances include cytokines, which cause low-grade inflammation. Visceral fat also secretes a precursor molecule for the protein angiotensin, which can make your blood vessels constrict.

Visceral fat has been linked to a number of medical conditions including:

  • Heart disease
  • Colon and breast cancer
  • Asthma
  • Dementia

How to Know If You Have a Visceral Fat Problem

Since visceral fat is stored deep within your body, it can be hard to tell if you have too much of it.

In fact, some overweight people will actually have low levels of visceral fat…which helps to explain why they may suffer fewer weight-related health problems than you might expect.

The opposite can also be true. It’s entirely possible for someone who is not overweight to have too much visceral fat. And their health can be at risk as a result.

So how can you tell if you’re storing too much visceral fat?

A precise diagnosis would require expensive tests like full-body MRIs or CT scans. Because these tests are costly and can be difficult to schedule, most medical experts rely on some simple measurements to estimate the amount of visceral fat a person might have. These include:

  • The ratio between height and waist size.
  • Waist size compared to body mass index (BMI).

Some researchers suggest that women with a waist size that is larger than 35 inches are at risk for health issues associated with too much visceral fat. For men, a waist size that is over 40 inches puts them at greater risk.

In general, people who have too much body fat overall are more likely to have excessive visceral fat.

What Can You Do About Visceral Fat?

Since visceral fat is stored deep inside the body, “quick fixes” like liposuction aren’t an option.

But there’s good news. Visceral fat is much more biologically reactive than subcutaneous fat. As a result, it’s easier to reduce. Following are some tips for reducing visceral fat:

  • Exercise more
    Thirty minutes or more of daily exercise helps to build muscle and burn fat. Since visceral fat is more reactive than subcutaneous fat, it responds more readily to exercise. So even if you don’t lose as much total weight as you might be shooting for, you’re likely to gain benefits from exercise in the form of reduced visceral fat.
  • Eat healthy
    Cut out simple carbohydrates like sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. Diets that are high in carbohydrates have been directly linked to higher amounts of visceral fat. Focus on eating whole grains, leafy and cruciferous vegetables, lean meat, and healthy fats.
  • Get the right amount of sleep
    Studies have shown that adults who get less than five hours of sleep each night tend to have more visceral fat.
  • Check your hormones
    Prior to menopause, women are less likely to store fat in their midsection. However, the decrease in estrogen that occurs as a result of menopause often leads to an increase in visceral fat storage in the abdomen.

    For men, testosterone production gradually declines with age, causing a loss of muscle mass and an increase in fat storage…especially around the belly. Meanwhile, it’s common for estrogen levels to rise as men get older, which only serves to compound challenges with belly fat.

Want to know if hormone imbalance is contributing to issues with body composition? Call Renew Youth at (800) 859-7511 or use our contact form to schedule your free consultation.

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