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5 Hidden Dangers of Visceral Fat, Says Doctor

This doctor warns excessive visceral fat can lead to health issues.
FACT CHECKED BY Alek Korab

To understand the dangers of visceral fat, let's start by defining this type of fat. "Viscera" is the Latin word that refers to the internal organs of the body, specifically in the abdomen. In simpler terms, visceral fat is fat that is in the abdominal cavity.  It typically surrounds some of the vital organs in the abdomen such as stomach, liver, and the intestines. That's why it can be so dangerous: Research suggests that an accumulation of visceral fat is associated with several health risks that pose significant danger to our bodies.  Here are five potential dangers of excessive visceral fat. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You Have "Long" COVID and May Not Even Know It.

1

Increased Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

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…like hypertension or coronary artery disease to name a few. Studies have shown immune system chemicals, like cytokine, are released from visceral fat.  These biochemical substances are inflammatory in nature and have been known to cause the progression of cardiovascular diseases.

2

Type 2 Diabetes/Insulin Resistance

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Since visceral fat is located near the liver, its proximity facilitates the distribution of fatty acids to enter the liver and promote insulin resistance, making it difficult for you to digest and or store the sugar you consume. 

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3

High Cholesterol

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As mentioned above, the fatty acids from visceral fat can easily get to the liver and alter the production of your cholesterol by increasing the bad cholesterol and lowering the good cholesterol. This promotes other metabolic derangements such as hypertension.

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4

Strokes

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Again, visceral fat releases biochemicals related to cytokines that can alter our clotting capabilities leading to cerebrovascular accidents, like strokes.

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5

Breast Cancer

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Visceral fat can produce cytokines (such as interleukin 6) and elevate levels of insulin secondary to insulin resistance that are associated with increased incidence of breast cancer. Other potential dangers include Alzheimer's dementia, gallstones, and a possible association with COVID.

6

What to Do If You Have Too Much Visceral Fat

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If you fear that you have excess visceral fat, don't panic. The good news is that there are simple lifestyle changes you can make that will help reduce and combat the "muffin tops."
1. Add physical activity (aerobic activity) to your daily routine. Specifically moderate exercise (I e. a brisk 30-minute walk) was shown to reduce/lose belly fat.  An emphasis on strength/resistance training was also instrumental in curbing the buildup of visceral fat. (WARNING doing sit ups, which is a type of spot building exercise, will not decrease visceral fat).
2.  Consume a diet that is healthy. Simply put, eat fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins. Limit simple carbohydrates like sugary drinks and white bread and replace saturated fats and trans-fat with polyunsaturated fats (so replace red meat with leaner cuts, and butter with olive oil).
These two simple tips will help you avoid the pitfalls of stubborn belly fat so that your journey through life will be filled with good health and happiness. (There are several pharmaceutical medications in the pipeline that will directly treat visceral fat.  More to come in the near future.) And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.
Honnie Spencer, MD
Dr. Honnie Spencer is a board-certified Family Physician and former attending and Affiliate Professor with CFM residency program/University of NC Chapel Hill. Read more
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