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5 Signs Fat is Wrapped Around Your Organs

Learn five signs you have visceral fat and how to get rid of it. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Visceral fat is a hidden health issue many people aren't aware of because it isn't anything that you can see or touch like subcutaneous fat that's under your skin. Instead, visceral fat is located deep in your abdomen and it wraps around your vital organs, which is a major concern because it can lead to serious health issues like stroke, diabetes, some cancers and more. So how can you tell if you have visceral fat? Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with experts who share five signs to watch out for. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Why Fat Wraps Around Your Organs

shred belly fat

Dr. Antonio Cueva, a board-certified general surgeon with over 18 years of experience from Renew Bariatrics explains, "Visceral fat is found wrapped around vital organs, like the liver, pancreas, and intestines. This type of fat is also referred to as "hidden fat" because it's stored deep within the abdominal cavity and cannot be seen or pinched. The reason why visceral fat wraps around these organs is because this type of fat acts as a cushion and keeps these organs from being damaged. They help keep the distance between these organs. However, too much visceral fat can cause inflammation and increase your blood pressure, which would lead to a greater risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes."

John Angstadt, MD Director of Bariatric and Minimally Invasive Surgery at Staten Island University Hospital tells us, "When you increase your calorie intake your body deposits fat inside your abdomen in several places.  The blood vessels perfusing your intestines run inside a layer of fat called the mesentery.  As your weight increases, the mesentery becomes much thicker as your body deposits fat there.  Your intestines are covered inside by an apron of fat called the omentum that hangs off of the transverse colon.  Usually on the thin side, the omentum can become much thicker as you increase internal fat.  Finally, you deposit internal fat around your kidneys at the back of the abdomen.  All of these locations inside your abdomen are called visceral fat.   Any increase in calorie intake can cause an increase in visceral fat.  Sugary drinks and alcohol are cited as common culprits as they add calories to your diet but really have no clear nutritional value.  We tend not to count liquid calories and it is easy to consume a lot of calories in a short period of time." 


Who is at Risk?

Female doctor measuring waist of overweight woman with measuring tape in clinic

Dr. Angstadt says, "Today an increase in visceral or intra-abdominal fat is related to your weight.  Patients at risk are those with a body mass index over 30.  Body mass index or BMI correlates your weight to your height and is a general indicator of whether you have excess weight on your body.  As your BMI increases, you begin to deposit fat around your intestines and in other places in your abdomen." 


The Health Dangers of Visceral Fat


According to Dr. Angstadt, "Increased abdominal fat is associated with an increase in your cardiometabolic risk.  As your waist increases in size due to an increase in abdominal fat, you are at increased risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.  Those diseases will shorten your life.  For men, an increase in your waist over 40 inches and for women, an increase in waist over 35 inches are associated with an increase in your risk of developing these diseases."


5 Signs Your Organs are Wrapped in Visceral Fat

Nutritionist inspecting a woman's waist using a measuring tape to prescribe a weight loss diet

Dr. Cueva says the following are signs that you have visceral fat. 

 "A large waist circumference: This is one of the most obvious signs that someone has too much visceral fat. If your waist circumference is greater than 35 inches (for women) or 40 inches (for men), it's likely that you have too much visceral fat.

A high waist-to-hip ratio: This ratio is a good indicator of how much visceral fat you have. To calculate your waist-to-hip ratio, simply divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement. A ratio greater than 0.9 (for men) and 0.85 (for women) means you have too much visceral fat, and are more at risk for developing health problems.

A high BMI: A BMI (body mass index) of 30 or higher indicates that you are obese, which can signify that you have too much visceral fat.

A protruding belly: Another outward sign that you have too much visceral fat is if you have a "pot belly" or "beer belly." This happens when the stomach protrudes outward due to excess visceral fat.

Higher blood pressure: Visceral fat has been linked to higher blood pressure, so if your blood pressure is consistently high, it's a good indicator that you have too much visceral fat. Make sure to get it checked by a doctor to rule out any other potential causes."


How to Get Rid of Visceral Fat

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

Dr. Angstadt shares the following tips to help get rid of visceral fat. 

  • "Reduce intake of sweet drinks and alcohol 
  • Increase your activity (walking, running, exercise of any kind) 
  • Substitute high calorie foods for lower calorie foods (skip the French fries or chips and add the salad or fruit) 
  • Increase the fiber in your meals (makes you full longer and has less calories)
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