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Ways to Lose the "Killer" Fat Inside You

Why visceral fat is so dangerous and how to get rid of it.

Visceral fat is an underlying health issue not talked about enough. Visceral fat is hidden deep within your belly and wrapped around your vital internal organs. It's been connected to serious health problems like type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer's Disease, stroke and several types of cancer. While you can't see or touch visceral fat, it's more than likely there and it's usually caused by unhealthy lifestyle choices like consuming too many calories, excessive drinking and not enough physical activity. Eat This, Not That! Health talked with Dr. Yasmin Akhunji, a board-certified endocrinologist with Paloma Health who explained why visceral fat is so dangerous and the best ways to lose it. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Why Visceral Fat is Dangerous

woman Doctor in green uniform wear eyeglasses and surgical mask talking, consulting and giving advice to Elderly female patient at the hospital

Dr. Akhunji explains, "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."


Measuring Visceral Fat

Woman going through bone density exam.

Dr. Akhunji says, "There's no perfect way to measure how much visceral fat one has, and BMI is unfortunately not a reliable predictor of the above. A more accurate measure of body fat distribution is a dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA). This gives us a detailed picture of body composition by breaking down body weight by fat, bone, and lean tissue mass. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, healthy body fat percentage changes by age and gender. For example, people aged 20 to 39- women, in particular, should aim for a body fat percentage of 21 to 32%, while men should aim for 8 to 19%. These percentages change and increase as age increases. I recommend working closely with your doctor to determine a healthy body fat percentage based on your sex, age, and height." 

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Work with a Doctor

Doctor talking with an obese woman and measuring her.

According to Dr. Akhunji, "One of the most important things to keep in mind when trying to lose weight is to make sure with a trusted clinician that other medical issues are not going on at the same time. Health disorders such as insulin resistance, diabetes, hypothyroidism, and polycystic ovarian syndrome can affect how we respond to diet and exercise changes. These hormones include your insulin and blood sugars, adrenal hormones, and of course, thyroid hormones." 

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Eat a Nutrient-Dense Diet

high protein foods

"What you eat is an essential factor in weight management," Dr. Akhunji states. "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."

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Limit Your Alcohol Intake

woman refusing glass of alcohol

Dr. Akhunji says, "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." 

RELATED: How You Can Drop Your Visceral Fat


Manage Your Stress


Dr. Akhunji explains, "Managing stress can support weight management. When the stress hormone cortisol is chronically elevated, one might note sleep disturbance, weight gain, muscle weakness, brain fog, mood swings, anxiety, and fatigue. Eating well, exercising regularly, getting good sleep, and practicing self-care can help balance your cortisol levels as well as your thyroid hormones." 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 about Heather