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Visceral Fat: What is It and How Do You Get Rid of It?

by Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN

Visceral fat is the fat that stays around your abdominal organs deep inside the body. You cannot feel or see visceral fat, and it may still be there even if you have a flat stomach.

Only an expensive scan can detect how much belly fat is hiding in you, but you do not need to get a test done just for that reason.

Visceral fat is a type of body fat that surrounds your internal organs and can be problematic. It is mainly located near some vital organs such as the liver, stomach, and intestines.

Visceral fat is sometimes addressed as “active fat” as it can actively increase the risk of some serious health issues.

Belly fat does not necessarily mean you have visceral fat. It can also be subcutaneous fat, which is stored right under the skin. Subcutaneous fat is also found in arms and legs and is easier to be seen and detected. Visceral fat, on the other hand, is actually inside the abdominal cavity and cannot be easily detected.

The Risks of Visceral Fat

Visceral fat can cause various health problems and should be treated immediately.

It can increase insulin resistance, even if you have never had prediabetes or diabetes.

According to research, visceral fat contributes to insulin resistance. Many studies suggest that it is because visceral fat secretes retinol binding protein 4. This is a protein that increases insulin resistance.

Visceral fat is more metabolically active than subcutaneous fat (the kind under your skin that you can pinch). It releases chemicals into your blood that increase the risk of chronic inflammation, which contributes to heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other health problems.

What Causes Visceral Fat?

Fat gets stored when you consume too many calories and do not do any sort of physical activity. That said, you’re genetically predisposed to carry more visceral fat if you have a family history of obesity or diabetes.

Environmental factors such as exercise and diet play an important role when it comes to visceral fat. A poor diet with too many fatty foods and carbs and an inactive lifestyle could be the building blocks for an increase in visceral fat accumulation.

Stress is also a factor as it activates a hormone in your body known as cortisol. More cortisol triggers your body’s fight-or-flight response, which activates the storage of even more visceral fat.

How Can You Measure Visceral Fat?

You cannot measure visceral fat percentage at home. Although, you can figure out your WHR (waist-to-hip ratio) at home or go to your healthcare provider to determine this.

Here’s how you can calculate your WHR at home:

  1. Stand up.
  2. Measure your waist circumference at its narrowest point (it is mostly right above the belly button).
  3. Measure your hips at their widest point. Wrap the tape measure around your hips over the widest part of each buttock and upper thigh, where it joins with the trunk of your body (the greater trochanter).
  4. Divide the waist circumference by your hip circumference. The result is your WHR.

According to a report by WHO, a WHR score above 0.90 for men and 0.85 for women indicates abdominal obesity.

How Do You Get Rid of and Eliminate Visceral Fat?

Here are some ways to get rid of visceral fat:

1.       Exercise

Exercise isn’t just good for your heart and muscles, it also helps reduce visceral fat by increasing your metabolism, which burns more calories than you eat. In addition to aerobic exercise, strength training also helps burn calories and reduce belly fat. If you’re not used to exercising, start slowly with walking and work up over time as you become more physically fit.

2.       Eat healthy

Eating a healthy diet rich in quality whole foods can help reduce visceral fat. Avoiding processed junk food will also help keep this type of body fat at bay because it promotes inflammation in your body, which contributes to disease processes in the long term.

3.       Reduce stress

The stress hormone cortisol can also increase the level of visceral fat in your body. So, reducing stress in your life will help you to make it easier to lose visceral fat. Meditation, stress management tactics, and deep breathing could be some of the daily practices you can try to reduce your stress levels.

4.       Get better quality sleep

A good night’s sleep could help you to get rid of visceral fat over the long run. Not getting enough sleep can increase the risk of more visceral fat, so try to get at least seven to eight hours of sleep each night.

5.       Limit alcohol intake

Drinking too much alcohol can lead to an increase in visceral fat in your body, so try to avoid drinking alcohol.

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