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5 Signs You Have Visceral Fat Besides a Big Belly

How to tell if you have too much belly fat, according to experts.

Belly fat (a.k.a. visceral fat) is one of the most underrated health threats there is. Unlike subcutaneous fat—the jiggly fat under the skin that you can grab or pinch—visceral fat surrounds organs deep within the abdomen. It can prevent the heart, stomach, liver and intestines from doing their jobs optimally and compromise your health by releasing toxins and hormones into the bloodstream. These are five dangers of visceral fat besides a big belly. 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.


Increased Heart Disease Risk

Man With Heart Attack

"Studies that have examined the relationship between abdominal fat and cardiovascular outcomes confirm that visceral fat is a clear health hazard," wrote the lead author of an April 2021 study published in the journal Circulation. It found that people with excess belly fat had a greater risk of heart attack—even if they had a normal body mass index. And a 2018 study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that women who carried more weight in their midsection had a 10% to 20% greater risk of heart attack than women who were heavier overall. 


Increased Cancer Risk

woman in bed suffering from cancer

According to the MD Anderson Cancer Center, excess belly fat is associated with an increased risk of several cancers. Those include colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer, post-menopausal breast cancer and uterine cancer.

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Liver Damage Risk

The doctor examines the patient.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, excess visceral fat raises your risk of serious metabolic disorders like fatty liver disease, a condition in which too much fat builds up in the liver. This prevents the vital organ from doing its crucial jobs: Cleansing the body of toxins and metabolizing the fats and carbs you consume. Left unchecked, fatty liver disease can lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer, and liver failure.

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Kidney Damage

Man suffering from back pain and kidney stones

A study published last April in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology found that people who are "apple-shaped"—or carrying more fat around the belly—had higher blood pressure in their kidneys, even if they weren't technically overweight. Over time, high blood pressure can damage blood vessels in the kidneys, compromising their ability to filter toxins from the blood.

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Midsection of young woman using glucometer to check blood sugar level at home

Too much belly fat increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. "Visceral fat can weaken or damage your organs," says MD Anderson. "Too much visceral fat can tell your body to make more insulin than it needs. High levels of insulin over time can lead to diseases like diabetes and cancer."

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The Easiest Way to Reduce Visceral Fat

exercise lunges

To reduce belly fat and related risks, get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week. The American Heart Association says that exercise, by itself or in combination with a healthier diet, can reduce that dangerous fat even if you don't lose weight overall. 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