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Surprising Side Effects of Having Visceral Fat, Says Dietitian

Weight gain of any kind often gets a bad reputation for our health because of this one instigator.

We know that excess abdominal fat could lead to poor health down the road. When it comes to weight gain, there are different types of weight gain we may experience.  Fat can be distributed differently: it may be subcutaneous or visceral. Subcutaneous fat lives underneath the skin and around muscles. This is typically what we think of when we think of weight gain. Contrary to popular belief, this kind of fat is the least harmful type of weight gain. Some research suggests that subcutaneous fat gain can even be protective of certain diseases.

There is another type of weight gain that has actually been shown to be more serious for our health—visceral fat. This is the fatty tissue that is stored in and around our internal organs. This type of fat mass has been widely associated with poor health outcomes. Let's take a deeper look at the connection between visceral fat and our health, then for even more tips, be sure to read up on our list of the 15 Underrated Weight Loss Tips That Actually Work.

It's associated with insulin resistance.

insulin resistance

Insulin resistance is often a precursor to chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease. Insulin resistance can worsen blood sugar levels and impair the body's ability to absorb glucose from the bloodstream. Researchers have long-hypothesized that increased visceral fat levels impair the body's ability to utilize insulin.

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Influences cardiac disease risk.

cardiac disease risk

Among the types of fat in the body, researchers found that visceral fat was the leading cause of cardiometabolic disease. This means that increased visceral fat storage increases the risk for cardiac events like heart attacks, stroke, and atherosclerosis—also known as the buildup of plaque in the arteries.

Connected with type 2 diabetes.

type 2 diabetes

Increased visceral fat storage is linked to an increased incidence of diabetes. Related to insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes occurs when the body is unable to produce enough insulin to control blood sugar levels or the cells cannot properly absorb insulin due to severe enough insulin resistance.

Correlated with elevated triglycerides.

doctor appointment

Researchers found that increased amounts of this type of fat correlated with elevated triglyceride levels. Triglycerides are a type of fat that is found in the bloodstream. High triglycerides are associated with an increased risk for heart disease and extremely high triglycerides pose a risk for acute pancreatitis.

More likely to develop metabolic syndrome.

visceral fat

Metabolic syndrome is a term used to describe a cluster of symptoms that can contribute to developing chronic disease. The symptoms of metabolic syndrome are high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol, and increased abdominal fat. Researchers in Japan found a distinct association between visceral fat and the prevalence of metabolic syndrome.

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Caroline Thomason, RDN
Caroline is a women's health Registered Dietitian and diabetes educator based in Northern Virginia. Read more about Caroline
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