What is Visceral Fat?
Visceral Fat is known by many names like skinny fat, deep fat, killer fat, deadly fat, toxic fat, hidden fat, flat belly fat, beer belly, Abdominal Obesity, internal fat, invisible fat, epicardial fat, etc.
Many diet plans focus on weight loss instead of fat loss. This is a major mistake that will have serious ramifications to your health especially on your bones and muscle mass.
Visceral or “deep” fat wraps around the inner organs and spells trouble for your health. How do you know if you have it? “If you have a large waist or belly, of course you have visceral fat,” Whitmer says. Visceral fat drives up your risk for diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and even dementia.
Visceral fat is thought to play a larger role in insulin resistance — which boosts risk of diabetes — than other fat. It’s not clear why, but it could explain or partially explain why visceral fat is a health risk.
Whitmer investigated the link between visceral fat and dementia. In a study, she evaluated the records of more than 6,500 members of Kaiser Permanente of Northern California, a large health maintenance organization, for an average of 36 years, from the time they were in their 40s until they were in their 70s.
The records included details on height, weight, and belly diameter — a reflection of the amount of visceral fat. Those with the biggest bellies had a higher risk of dementia than those with smaller bellies. The link was true even for people with excess belly fat but overall of normal weight.
She doesn’t know why belly fat and dementia are linked, but speculates that substances such as leptin, a hormone released by the belly fat, may have some adverse effect on the brain. Leptin plays a role in appetite regulation but also in learning and memory.
“The fat we can see on overweight people is subcutaneous fat,” says Dr Ron McCoy, Melbourne-based spokesperson for the Royal College of Australian GPs. But it’s the fat we can’t see that surrounds vital organs, called visceral fat, that could be a hidden killer. “Visceral fat is metabolised by the liver, which transforms it into cholesterol,” Dr McCoy explains. “Cholesterol circulates in the blood and can collect in your arteries, creating heart disease and high blood pressure.”
It’s also believed that visceral fat produces more hormones and proteins than subcutaneous fat, affecting glucose levels and triggering the start of type 2 diabetes and other serious health issues such as cardiovascular disease.But if you’re skinny on the outside, how does fat accumulate on the inside?A lack of exercise is the biggest factor. “If your body isn’t moving, it doesn’t metabolise the fat that’s building up – either outside or inside,” Sam Mower, an exercise physiologist, explains.
Skinny Fat – Are You thin outside, fat inside?
It’s not uncommon for people who look slim and healthy to be collecting dangerous amounts of internal fat around their organs, according to the Medical Research Council in the UK. Doctors used MRI body scanners to show that even slim people can still have high levels of internal fat collecting around vital organs such as the heart, liver, kidneys and pancreas. These people, sometimes known as “skinny-fats” or “thin outside, fat inside” (TOFI), could be seriously putting their health at risk.
Asians are more at risk of skinny fat in a condition called Skinny Fat Asians. About 11% of skinny Asians are in this category – some are as young at 20 years old. These individuals can eat almost anything in great quantities without getting fat. Just because they are slim and skinny does not mean they are healthy. Visceral fat is lurking deep inside their bodies and this skinny fat become slightly visible in the form of a slight tummy bulge they may already have a serious health problem.
This problem is particularly prevalent in Southeast Asian countries where a high percentage of their populations are obese due to unhealthy diets and lifestyles.
Health Risks Of Visceral Fat
Because visceral fat accumulates deep within the abdomen, and surrounds organs like the liver and insulin-generating pancreas, it poses certain dangers to health. Although men are more likely to be at risk than women of developing certain diseases, both should be aware of the increased risks of the following health conditions:
- Type 2 Diabetes:
- Heart Disease
- Breast Cancer
- Colorectal Cancer
- High Blood Pressure
- High Cholesterol
- Insulin resistance
- Acts as Endocrine cells which interfere with your hormones and the normal function of your organs
- Coronary Artery Disease
- Inflammation of your airways (difficulty breathing)
- Metabolic Syndrome
- Lower Immunity to diseases
- Sexual dysfunction
- Gallstones (gallbladder stones) in women
- Dementia / Alzheimer’s Disease / Cognitive decline
- Sleep disorders like Sleep Apnea: Increased visceral fat has been associated with the occurrence of obstructive sleep apnea, since deep abdominal fat can restrict the movement of the diaphragm and limit lung expansion.
Increased Inflammation Risk with Visceral Fat
A major concern is that visceral fat produces hormonal and inflammatory molecules that get dumped directly into the liver, leading to even more inflammation and hormone-disrupting reactions. If you have more fat stored than you need, especially around visceral organs like the liver, heart, kidneys, pancreas and intestines, your body becomes inflamed and your metabolism suffers, making it a hard cycle to break out of.
Visceral fat does more than just lead to inflammation down the road — it becomes inflamed itself by producing something known as interleukin-6, a type of inflammatory molecule. This kind of fat stores inflammatory white blood cells and kicks off a series of autoimmune reactions. Inflammation is at the root of most diseases, and this is why inflammatory belly fat is linked with cognitive decline, arthritis, diabetes and so on.
This visceral fat in your middle makes toxins that affect the way your body works, says Samuel Dagogo-Jack, MD, president of the American Diabetes Association. Among them are chemicals called cytokines that boost your chances of heart disease and make your body less sensitive to insulin, which can bring on diabetes.
Cytokines also cause inflammation, which can lead to certain cancers, says Eric Jacobs, PhD, a researcher at the American Cancer Society. In recent years, he says, scientists have uncovered links between belly fat and cancers of the colon, esophagus, and pancreas.
According to a study published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, visceral fat may have a greater impact on the cardiovascular health of older women than does overall obesity. Danish researchers found that women with excessive belly fat had a greater risk of atherosclerosis than those whose fat was stored mostly in their hips, thighs, and buttocks. Here’s why:
- The proximity of visceral fat to your liver boosts production of LDL cholesterol (the “bad” one), which collects in your arteries and forms plaque, a waxy substance.
Over time, this waxy plaque becomes inflamed, causing swelling that narrows the arteries, restricting the passage of blood.
- The narrowing passageways increase blood pressure, straining your heart and potentially damaging tiny capillaries.
- The inflammation further increases your risk of blood clots, which can break loose and cause stroke.
There are two tests FOR Visceral Fat:
1) If you are moderately overweight, you have some visceral fat but those with excessive amounts are men whose pants fit tight only in the waist.
2) If you are lean enough to see abs but your lower belly still protrudes forward, you have visceral fat.
An relatively inexpensive body fat meter / scale is a widely available tool used to measure the percentage of fat in the human body. Different meters use various methods to determine the body fat to weight ratio. They tend to under-read body fat percentage.
The Tanita, made famous by The Biggest Loser, and other body fat scales use bioelectrical impedance (BIA) to gauge the amount of lean mass, water, and fat in your body by sending a current from the metal plates under your feet through your body and timing how long it takes. While they are a relatively cheap option—you can find them for as little as $19.99 at any department store, and you can use them in the privacy of your own home—they are notoriously unreliable. Take a huge drink of water and watch your percentage change by up to 10 percent.
Often seen in gyms, handheld devices like the Omron use the same principle as the body fat scales but they suffer from the same reliability issues as the at-home scales and can fluctuate wildly depending on your hydration level. While they are easy to use—just grab the handles and hold!—they can also be pricey. Plus, they can’t tell the difference between visceral and subcutaneous fat.
NOTE: Although these measuring devices are not very accurate, they do give an indication of the levels of visceral fat in your body and are a good alternative to the more expensive measuring devices / testing services that are available in diagnostics clinics and spas.
If you have the cash and want a more accurate reading of your body’s visceral fat, google for “body fat measurement device in _____ your country/city” to find out where you can obtain such services.
Subcutaneous versus visceral fat: How to tell the difference?
The photos below, from Wikipedia, show two patterns of abdominal fat deposition. The one on the left is predominantly of subcutaneous abdominal fat deposition. The one on the right is an example of visceral abdominal fat deposition, around internal organs, together with a significant amount of subcutaneous fat deposition as well.
Body fat is not an inert mass used only to store energy. Body fat can be seen as a “distributed organ”, as it secretes a number of hormones into the bloodstream. For example, it secretes leptin, which regulates hunger. It secretes adiponectin, which has many health-promoting properties. It also secretes tumor necrosis factor-alpha (more recently referred to as simply “tumor necrosis factor” in the medical literature), which promotes inflammation. Inflammation is necessary to repair damaged tissue and deal with pathogens, but too much of it does more harm than good.
How Excess Fat Affects Organs – Danger of Visceral Fat
Foods that that you should avoid if you are at risk of visceral fat
- Tendency to gain weight around the middle of the body (apple shaped person)
- Processed foods high in additives, synthetic flavours (eg MSG), colourings and preservatives
- Bakery items eg cakes, biscuits, crackers, pies, cookies, even most breakfast cereals.
- Pre-packaged foods, pre-prepared convenience meals, TV dinners, take-aways,
- Sweets eg lollies (candies), deserts like ice cream and most commercial yoghurt
- Processed meats (hot dogs, hamburgers, bacon, cheese, canned food, store bought popcorn and fried fast food.
- Avoid refined grains like white pastas, white flour, white rice, white rice, cookies, bagels and white bread. All of these turn to sugar when digested by your body.
- Soy including tofu contains high levels of goitrogens which could lead to hypothyroid problems.
- Starch, in the form of grains and potatoes, metabolizes into sugar in your body and should also be eliminated from your diet if you suffer from excess weight, diabetes or high cholesterol.
- Avoid trans-fats such as vegetable cooking oils, margarines etc. use coconut oil, butter or ghee for cooking instead.
- Avoid high fructose corn syrup, sodas and most sports drinks
- Avoid table salt (use Hymalayan or Sea salts)
- Poor nutrition from eating a low nutrient dense diet (empty calories)
- Don’t use non-stick cooking utensils
- Avoid microwaving foods and drinks especially for babies
- High alcohol consumption. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2 servings (4 ounces per serving) of alcohol a day.
- Taking many medications (poly-pharmacy)
- Crash dieting with poor nutrition (this does not include juice fasting as you are still ingesting adequate calories combined with very HIGH levels of nutrients and antioxidants which supports the metabolism and cleansing and removal of visceral fat.)
- Avoid alcohol – or reduce significantly
- Lack of exercise and inactivity. Walk about half an hour to an hour every day to lower cortisol.
- High cortisol levels caused from stress
- Lack of adequate balanced sleep. You will be able to keep visceral fat in check if you sleep for at least 6 hours a night. The interesting thing is that if you sleep more than 7 hours a night, this will also contribute to belly fat. It is therefore important to get enough quality sleep because too little or too much of sleep is only going to make things difficult.
- Quit smoking
- Minimise exposure to environmental toxins from the air you breath to the water you drink and the foods you eat.
- Don’t go for Liposuction. You can’t remove visceral fat with liposuction. It’s also a dangerous medical procedure as it causes inflammation.
Foods you should take to reduce risk of visceral fat
There is no quick fit. You have to lead a healthy lifestyle. These foods are good not only for helping your reduce visceral fat but also for your general health as it contains lots of essential vitamins and minerals your body needs daily.
- Eat Clean (Organic, non-GMO) Whole Foods as far as possible.
- Do Intermittent Fasting, Cleansing / Detoxing to remove toxins which are embedded in fats. (Need a good ckeabsing program? Contact me)
- Healthy fats in oils. Almonds, Macadamia Nuts, Natural Peanut Butter, Flaxseed Oil, Pistachios, Sunflower Seeds, Walnuts, Sweet potatoes, Olive Oil (on salads but not for cooking)
- Dark or Semi-Sweet Chocolate preferably cacoa nibs.
- Go Omega: Eat more omega-3 fatty acids. These are essential fatty acids, and powerful anti-inflammatory agents. The best way to get your Omega-3 intake is to eat three or four ounces of fish like salmon or trout two times per week. Other great sources include flax seeds and walnuts.. One crucial tip: Flax seeds need to be ground or your body can’t digest them, so don’t just throw them into your cereal. Instead, grind them up (a coffee grinder is great for this).
- Eat the colours of the rainbow in plant foods. Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables—to the tune of seven to nine servings per day for men. But pay attention to the color of your fruits and veggies from to orange and yellow veggies to dark leafy greens. . Pigment is a vital chemical in plants; it forms, Villacorta says, “the plant’s immune system; and the different colors have different health benefits.” Capsium, mushrooms, carrots, beets, bok choy, cabbage, eggplant, brocolli, cauliflower, spinach, tomatoes, etc are also high in antioxidants that boost your immunity system.
- Berries are among the best things you can eat—packed with antioxidants, blueberries and strawberries are particularly great choices
- Include plenty of raw vegetables such as salads –raw fruits and vegetables contain important enzymes which are vital for a healthy metabolism. Beneficial fruits include watermelon, oranges, apples, coconut juice, papaya, bananas, pineapple, avocado, promegranates, grapefruit, tomatoes, grapes etc
- Focus on Fiber: Choose whole grains and high fiber foods. Whole grains and fiber have been proven to reduce inflammation. That means whole wheat pastas; brown / red rice; Quinoa; beans; rolled oats, lentils; whole wheat breads; and whole grain breads.
- For meats or proteins, choose chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, and lean cuts of beef if they are pasture raised. The best form of proteins that you body needs is undenatured whey protein that are produced organically and with low heat. (Need a good undenatured whey protein? Contact me)
- Sea food like salmon, tuna, sardines, etc are good if they are not farmed fish
- Bone broth using meats that have little fat (boiled in a slow cooker for 12-24 hours) has traditionally been known to promote good health. You get collagen and bone marrow through bone broth or soup. You get added benefits if it is cooked with traditional Chinese herbs like ginseng. Protein makes up around 20% of the body’s mass, and collagen makes up around 30% of the protein in the human body. Collagen is most commonly found within the body in the skin, bones and connective tissues.
- Add Some Spice (and Other Antioxidants): Eat antioxidant rich foods. Many spices, such as oregano, cinnamon, turmeric, and ginger, are rich in antioxidants. Stay away from processed soy—like tofu or less processed soy Eat only fermented soy products eg miso, tempeh, natto, etc. . Drink green tea. And treat yourself to some dark chocolate, as long as it’s at least 70 percent cacao. Red wine is also seriously good for you—in moderation. Useful spices include ginger, garlic and onions.
- Eat Fermented Vegetables (eg kimchi, Chutneys, , Condiments, such as salsa and mayonnaise etc) for probiotic health, Vitamin K2 and Bs Condiments, such as salsa and mayonnaise. You can easily make lacto-fermented / cultured vegetables like cabbage, cucumber, carrots etc at home.
- Think Whole Foods and Smaller Plates: Eliminate as much possible highly processed foods, especially those with high fructose corn syrup and trans fats. Even when eating whole foods, resist excess calorie consumption. Only eat enough calories to maintain weight and optimum metabolic needs. That means being careful—but not being crazy about it, because food is, after all, one of the great joys of life.
- Sunshine / Vitamin D. We need vitamin D to help the body absorb calcium and phosphorus from our diet. These minerals are important for healthy bones and teeth.
- Drink Water. Now the Institute of Medicine sets general guidelines for total water intake. It recommends that women consume a total of 91 ounces (that’s about 2.7 liters) per day – from all food and beverages combined. For men, it’s about 125 ounces a day (or 3.7 liters).
Have a committed plan to eat healthy. It will cost a bit more, but you won’t regret it as it will save you on medical costs in the long run and you will keep visceral fat at bay.
Contact me if you want to find a safe and effective way of getting rid of visceral fat. It won’t be easy, and you need to be commuted for a period of time but I promise you it will be worth it.
https://teamrich.wordpress.com Visceral Fat by Nancy Long