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5 Major Dangers of Visceral Fat—And How You Can Lose It

The dangerous fat in your midsection is more than just unsightly. It could be deadly.

Over a third of Americans are obese or overweight. According to a survey by the American Psychological Association, 61 percent of Americans had unwanted weight changes during the pandemic. Being isolated for over a year did not help people's weight loss or fat-burn goals. While fat cells are crucial for maintaining a healthy body, there is unhealthy fat: subcutaneous and visceral. Subcutaneous fat is noticeable fat resting just underneath the skin, the kind you can pinch. Primarily found in the abdominal area, visceral fat is the type you cannot grab or hold. It hides in the abdomen, surrounding the liver, stomach, and intestines, filling the spaces between these organs. Someone can have a flat stomach with high concentrations of visceral fat deep in their abdomen, making it dangerous in high volumes. Here are five ways it harms your body. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Increased Waist Size

Overweight woman in tight clothes at home is trying to fit into tight jeans.

A large belly can mean higher accumulations of visceral fat. While it hides between major organs and can only be seen through a body scan, increased waist size may be an indicator. If getting into a pair of comfortable jeans is now a challenge, wrap a tape measurer around your belly. For men, less than 40 inches is an acceptable size, 35 for women. However, this is not a one-size-fits-all method to determine whether you have too much visceral fat. Results can vary due to height, genetics, and family health history.



Young upset stressed woman suffering from abdominal and stomach pain during menstruation, PMS in room at home. Inflammation and infection. Food poisoning

Visceral fat releases a hormone that increases inflammation throughout the body. Once this hormone gets into the bloodstream, particularly the arteries, it can damage how the body breaks down sugars and fats. This can lead your body to be more susceptible to negative long-term health effects. 

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High Cholesterol

high cholesterol

There is a vein in the abdomen called the portal vein that sends blood from the stomach, intestines, and pancreas to the liver. This is how the liver gets most of its blood supply, and the liver breaks down all the blood from the stomach, turning it into nutrients. A protein pumped out of visceral fat cells eventually makes its way into the portal vein, leading to higher cholesterol, plaque buildup, and insulin resistance. 

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Narrow Blood Vessels and Clotting

blood clot

Immune system chemicals found in visceral fat called cytokines release into the body. One of these cytokines is a protein called tumor necrosis factor (TNF). Visceral fat inflames proteins in the bloodstream, which narrow crucial blood vessels. Generally, this affects blood pressure and can lead to clotting. TNF may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease for both men and women.

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Increased Risk of Serious Illness

Overweight woman having a heart attack while touching her chest

Because visceral fat can increase inflammation, raise cholesterol, narrow blood vessels, cause blood clots, and contribute to increased waist size, so does the risk of developing a serious illness. It can particularly raise the probability of heart disease (which is the leading cause of death in the United States) as well as having a stroke. But studies also indicate that high concentrations of visceral fat are also connected to people who develop type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, even cognitive impairment. These conditions are linked to too much fat in the torso, abdomen, pelvis, and back. 

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How to Lose Visceral Fat

exercise lunges
"Some things that can be effective are resistance training exercise; increasing lean body mass with added lean muscle will boost metabolic rate. Adequate sleep is also important. It's common for people to drop a few pounds when regularly getting adequate sleep. Maintaining a healthy gut with probiotics and fiber help in maintaining digestive health as well," says Dr. Michael Rogowski, PhD., Senior Nutrition Scientist at Plexus Worldwide. The Mayo Clinic recommends at least 150 minutes of aerobic activity a week, amounting to about 30 minutes of structured exercise every day. From the treadmill to resistance training, doctors say it is important to stay active. Eating smart is also essential. Food high in vitamin C, vitamin D, and calcium have been linked to less visceral fat. Spinach, kale, oranges, strawberries, and broccoli are rich in nutrients and essential vitamins. Stick with lean proteins like white meat chicken. Portion sizes are key, especially when consuming heavily processed foods. More than anything else, consult with your primary care provider if you have any concerns. They may put you in touch with a licensed nutritionist or dietician. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.
Matt Gillick
Matt Gillick has been writing about world news, culture, and sports since graduating from Providence College in 2015. He received his MFA from Emerson College in 2021. Read more about Matt