Skip to content

The #1 Worst Habit for Visceral Fat, Say Physicians

Visceral fat poses a serious and unique threat to overall health.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

A few years ago, the biggest threat most people associated with belly fat involved their clothes budgets. Today, science has determined that fat which develops in this region—also known as visceral fat—poses a serious and unique threat to overall health, and preventing or reducing it is one of the best things you can do. This is the #1 habit that makes you gain visceral fat and prevents you from losing it, doctors say. 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.


Why Visceral Fat Is Harmful

Doctor measures patient's waist.

Unlike subcutaneous fat—the pinchable fat under the skin—visceral fat lies under the abdominal muscle, nested around organs like the stomach, liver and pancreas. This fat increases inflammation throughout the body and is metabolically active, releasing hormones and toxic substances into those vital organs. Experts say excess visceral fat raises your risk of serious disorders, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease, and sleep apnea. In women, visceral fat is also associated with breast cancer, polycystic ovary disease, and the need for gallbladder surgery. 


The #1 Worst Habit for Visceral Fat

two women in PJs eating pizza in bed

The worst habit for visceral fat is consuming too much added sugar and simple carbohydrates—such as refined grains—that quickly break down into sugar in the body once ingested. That's because belly fat thrives on sugar and uses it as a growth source.

"​​Fructose, or sugar, causes fat cells to mature faster, specifically in the visceral fat," says the Cleveland Clinic.

"When you raise your blood sugar, you raise insulin," said functional medicine physician Dr. Mark Hyman in a recent episode of his podcast. "You raise insulin, you sweep all the fuel out of your bloodstream and throw it into your belly-fat cells. It's like insulin basically opens the gates—all the fuel, fat, sugar, carbs, everything goes flooding into your fat cells. And then the gate closes like a one-way turnstile in the subway."

RELATED: The #1 Habit That Leads to a Bad Back, Say Physicians


Studies Agree: Sugar = Belly Fat

woman craving sugar

A 2020 study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology found that eating too much sugar is associated with larger fat deposits around the heart and in the abdomen. "When we consume too much sugar, the excess is converted to fat and stored," said lead author So Yun Yi of the University of Minnesota. "This fat tissue located around the heart and in the abdomen releases chemicals into the body which can be harmful to health. Our results support limiting added sugar intake."

RELATED: 5 Health Mistakes That Cause "Puffy Skin"


What to Do Instead

womaneating healthy meal

To reduce the amount of added sugar in your diet, you can:

  • Choose water or unsweetened seltzer instead of sugary drinks or juices
  • Select healthier snacks over foods with added sugar
  • Read food labels to check the amount of added sugar in what you're buying. Look for ingredients like syrups, glucose, fructose, sucrose, and maltose. 

RELATED: Warning Signs You Have Colon Cancer Now


How to Tell if You Have Too Much Visceral Fat

Body fat analysis with electronic bioelectrical impedance scale at weight loss clinic.

To gauge if you have excess visceral fat, measure your waist at the belly button. Experts say you're at higher risk of health problems related to visceral fat if your waist is more than 35 inches if you're a woman, or more than 40 inches if you're a man. And to ensure your health don't visit any of 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