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Losing This Kind of Fat is Most Important, Say Studies

If you have it, you should prioritize losing it ASAP.

If there were a competition for the top health story of the new millennium, one serious contender would be the revelation that not all fat is created equal. Contrary to decades of bad publicity about dietary fat, "healthy" fats can actually improve your heart health and help you lose weight. Similarly, gaining and carrying body fat in a certain area of the body is much more dangerous than having it in other areas, and if you have it, you should prioritize losing it ASAP. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


The Fat You Should Focus on Losing

belly fat

The fat that's most important to lose is visceral fat, also known as abdominal fat or belly fat.

Unlike subcutaneous fat—the jiggly fat under the skin that you can grab or pinch—visceral fat surrounds organs deep within the abdomen, like the stomach, liver and intestines. It can prevent those crucial organs from doing their jobs optimally and compromise your overall health by releasing toxins and hormones into the bloodstream.


Health Risks of Visceral Fat

According to the Cleveland Clinic, excess visceral fat raises your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease, and sleep apnea. 

In women, visceral fat is also associated with polycystic ovary syndrome, breast cancer, and the need for gallbladder surgery, says Harvard Medical School. 

Additionally, according to a February study published in the journal Metabolism, excess visceral fat raises your risk of severe COVID-19. Researchers theorize visceral fat may trigger an immune system overreaction called a cytokine storm, in which inflammation causes vital organs to fail.

The more visceral fat you have, the higher your chance of developing these issues.

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Why Does Visceral Fat Raise Health Risks?

Overweight woman discussing test results with doctor in hospital.

"Research suggests that fat cells — particularly abdominal fat cells — are biologically active," says Harvard Medical School. "It's appropriate to think of fat as an endocrine organ or gland, producing hormones and other substances that can profoundly affect our health."

Visceral fat may increase the production of inflammatory substances in the body that raise the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Visceral fat's proximity to the liver and pancreas could also increase "bad" cholesterol and inhibit the body from breaking down fat and processing blood sugar. 

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Am I At Risk?

Obese man measuring his waist.

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, you may be more likely to experience health problems from visceral fat if your waist measures more than 35 inches if you're a woman, or more than 40 inches if you're a man. 

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How to Lose Visceral Fat

Woman with protective face mask setting music on smart phone and putting earphones before exercise.

The easiest way to reduce visceral fat is to lose weight. Experts say that weight loss alone can effectively reduce visceral fat. By losing 10% of your body weight, you may lose up to 30% of your body fat. Exercise is also crucial to slashing belly fat. Moderate physical activity combined with strength training seems to work best. 

And be sure to get enough sleep. Researchers at Wake Forest University found that dieters who sleep five hours or less every night put on 2 1/2 times more belly fat than people who slept adequately (meaning seven to nine hours a night). And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor. Read more about Michael