Most of us know it’s not healthy to be carrying excess body fat. But, certain types of fat can be even more harmful than we may realise, especially if we develop too much of it. Visceral fat, which is stored around your organs, contributes to a range of dangerous health conditions such as heart disease, dementia and cancer.
This blog explains what this type of fat is, how it develops and how to reduce it.
What is visceral fat?
Visceral fat is essentially a build-up of intra-abdominal adipose tissue … Or in simpler terms, it’s fat that’s stored deeper than normal belly fat. It wraps around your major organs including the liver, pancreas and kidneys. Nasty stuff.
These fat cells do more than just increase the notch on your belt – they also change some of your body’s vital functions. For instance, visceral fat tissue acts like an organ itself, releasing hormones and inflammatory chemicals called cytokines, which can only be processed by the liver. In addition, these substances can cause inflammation and interfere with hormones, leading to changes in hunger, weight and mood.
Too much visceral fat in your system can make it difficult for you to produce insulin. This increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Do I have visceral fat?
To take an accurate measurement, you’d need a costly CT scan. But, an easy way to measure visceral fat levels can be found by looking at your belly and waist size. If it’s protruding, you likely have a store of visceral fat.
Specifically, your waist:hip ratio demonstrates how high your visceral fat measurement is. (To measure this, you divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement).
- For men, a waist:hip ratio of above 1 is high. Anything below 0.95 puts you at a lower risk of disease.
- For women, a waist:hip ratio of above 0.85 is high. Anything below 0.8 puts you at a lower risk of disease.
Interested in monitoring your body measurements? You can track changes with the Evergreen Life app. Specifically, our personal health and fitness monitor feature in the Evergreen Life app lets you record various results so you can understand your weight loss progress.
6 ways to reduce visceral fat
Have you found that your waist:hip ratio is higher than the safe limit? Don’t worry – there are ways to reduce your visceral fat to healthier levels. Follow our tips for improved health:
- Not so fast...food!
Saturated fats, refined carbohydrates and sugars contribute heavily to our storage of fat. Firstly, try replacing sugar with healthy natural sweeteners in moderation. Eating healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil, avocados and walnuts, or fermented foods like kimchi, live yoghurt and miso can benefit your insulin balance, gut bacteria, hormones, and weight management.
- Lean and clean protein
Beat hunger and reduce insulin spikes with healthy protein choices. Avoid greasy hamburgers, bacon and processed sausages in favour of fish, lean meats such as turkey or chicken, and free-range eggs.
- Lose the booze?
Alcohol makes you gain weight around your mid-section, without you realising. It’s so easy to guzzle down hundreds, even thousands, of liquid calories by binging on beer, wine or cocktails. Extra alcohol units also place strain on the liver, which is already working over time to break down the toxic visceral fat acids. Give your liver a break – alternate beers with water or other sugar-free alternatives.
- Smoking - be a quitter
As everyone is well aware, cigarettes take a toll on almost your entire body. In particular, smoking contributes heavily to the excess storage of visceral fat. Consider cutting down the number of cigs per week and your waistline (and bank account!) will thank you. You may gain weight as you stop smoking. That weight gain does not usually last too long. In any case, the benefits of stopping smoking far outweigh the disadvantages of any weight gain!
- Thirst aid training
Regular hydration makes sure your organs are working as they should. For this reason, visceral fat reduction is only going to happen if you’re drinking enough water. NHS Choices recommends aiming for 6-8 glasses of water per day. But if you’re exercising or it’s particularly hot weather, you should up your water intake to replace lost fluids through sweat!
- Move it
To guarantee visceral fat loss, it's best to combine a good fitness routine and healthy food – both essential for hormone regulation. Aerobic exercise and high-intensity resistance training (also known as HIRT) can be effective methods for losing visceral fat.
Did you know that your genes can affect how you lose and gain weight? Are you genetically more inclined to store fat? Are you likely to regain weight after losing it? Our DNA Metabolism Test can help you make choices to get to the weight you want to be.