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Signs You Need to Lose "Visceral Fat"

Everything you need to know about visceral fat.
FACT CHECKED BY Alek Korab

Visceral fat is often referred to as "hidden fat" because it's not always visible. It wraps around your vital organs and can cause serious health issues. Heather Hanks, MS CAM Medical Solutions BCN – Nutritionist and Medical Advisor says, "Visceral fat is dangerous because it directly impacts the health and function of your organs. While a normal amount of fat is needed to protect your organs, too much can be damaging. It also releases hormones that induce inflammation, which impacts every aspect of your health." She adds, "Visceral fat is especially dangerous for your heart as it puts pressure on your heart and arteries, making it harder for the heart to pump blood and increasing your risk of cardiovascular factors." Eat This, Not That! Health talked with several medical experts who explained everything to know about visceral fat. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.

1

Why Visceral Fat is a Health Concern

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Dr. Yasmin Akhunji, a board-certified endocrinologist with Paloma Health states, "There are several reasons we want to avoid having excess fat around the midsection. The problem with belly fat is the fact that not only do we have that annoying fat pad below our bellies, but 'visceral fat' is also what encompasses our organs. Regardless of your weight, we know that belly fat increases your risk of insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, risk of stroke, and even colorectal cancer. The 'metabolic syndrome,' of which belly fat is a risk factor, is important to watch for even beginning at a young age. Thyroid hormones are also something to watch for as they play a role in regulating metabolism and other hormones such as insulin and cortisol."

2

How to Tell if You Have Visceral Fat

Doctor measuring obese man waist body fat.
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Erin Mahoney, a personal trainer and founder EMAC Certifications explains "BMI scores over 30 are considered obese and 50 is very obese. BMI (body mass index) is a calculation based on height and weight. When scoring in the danger zones of over 30, and certainly over 50, it's likely you have visceral fat. Therefore one of the quickest and easiest ways for you to figure out if you're at risk for visceral fat is by using a quick online calculator of your BMI.

However, BMI doesn't account for lean body mass OR where the mass is distributed. Therefore, a better way to determine if you have visceral fat is by using the waist to hip ratio method. This is a quick and convenient way to assess where your fat is distributed and if you're at risk for visceral fat. Using a tape measure, measure the circumference of your hips (widest part around, standing with your feet together). Then measure your waist at the narrowest part, without 'sucking in.' Then divide the waist number by the hip number. Any score above .8 for women and .95 for men indicates too much visceral fat."

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3

Testing for Visceral Fat

Determining the amount of sebum on male abdomen using medical caliper.
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According to Mahoney, "Another method for determining fat composition is through body fat testing. The most accurate method is through underwater weighing (hydrostatic weighing). It's not convenient or cost friendly. Therefore, a close second is through skinfold caliper testing. Using several light pinch areas, a professional will be able to determine your percentage of fat mass versus lean body mass (muscle and bone). The higher the percentage, the more likely you are to have visceral fat. Using BMI, waist to hip ratio, and body fat testing together are great ways to determine if you have visceral fat. The combination of these measurements will inform you on how much body fat you have and serve as benchmarks for you to work towards improving."

RELATED: Signs You Have "Too Much Fat" on Your Waist

4

Signs You Need to Lose Visceral Fat

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Abdominal Circumference

Dr. Kristina Hendija says, "Visceral fat tends to accumulate at the abdominal area, leading to a widening waistline. Though this is generally not the first symptom of a dangerous level of visceral fat, it may be the most noticeable one."

Easy Fatigability

"Easy fatigability is another consequence of increased visceral fat accumulation," Dr. Kristina Hendija states. "Activities that were once easy or manageable may become challenging, such as walking to a store or climbing a flight of stairs."

Onset of Diseases

Dr. Kristina Hendija explains, "Visceral fat accumulation leads to a whole host of lifestyle diseases. Those with an excess may find themselves developing Type 2 Diabetes or hypertension, leading to reduced quality of life. Proper lifestyle management can help to mitigate or prevent the development of these diseases in the long term." 

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5

How You Get Visceral Fat

processed foods
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According to Dr. Akhunji, "What you eat is an essential factor in weight management. I recommend eating a nutrient-dense diet with lots of lean meats, healthy fats, and hearty greens for my endocrine patients. Reduce processed foods and common inflammatory foods like gluten, grains, dairy, and sugar—and don't forget to stay hydrated! In the Framingham heart study, people consuming whole grains were found to be 17% less likely to have abdominal fat than those who are consuming refined grains.

 It's also crucial to watch things like alcohol intake. Excessive alcohol intake is associated with central obesity—and this was seen in just adding one additional alcoholic beverage daily. Eating foods that are high in soluble fiber allows you to feel fuller for a more extended period. Generally, people are prone to eating less and being more mindful of their diet when those foods are added in. Foods such as blackberries, flaxseeds, and avocados are an example of this." So enjoy those, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more