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The #1 Reason You Can't Lose Your Visceral Fat

Learn why it can be hard to lose visceral fat and ways to help prevent it. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

We all know that excess belly fat isn't healthy and it can lead to serious health issues like heart disease and liver problems, but it can also turn deadly. While belly fat is something you can see, it's also hiding other places deep in your abdomen and wraps around your vital organs, which can cause diabetes, stroke and some cancers. It's called visceral fat and to maintain overall optimal health, you have to get rid of it, but sometimes it's not so easy to lose. Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with experts who share what to know about visceral fat and reasons why it's hard to shed. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


What to Know About Visceral Fat

Woman sitting at the gym with pink pilates ball.

Dr. Tomi Mitchell, a Board-Certified Family Physician with Holistic Wellness Strategies tells us, "Visceral fat is a type of fat that is stored within the abdominal cavity and surrounding organs. Unlike subcutaneous fat, which is stored just under the skin, visceral fat is more difficult to lose and has been linked to various health problems."


Insulin Resistance


According to Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD, "One reason you may be having difficulty losing visceral fat is undiagnosed insulin resistance. When it comes to insulin resistance the food we eat can play a role to both help and hinder the process. When you are preparing your meal there are certain food groups and nutrients you'll want to be sure you integrate. Non-starchy vegetables should make up at least half your plate including green leafy vegetables, asparagus, peppers, cauliflower, carrots, and broccoli to name a few. Opt for fruit rather than sugar-laden desserts. Focus on high fiber foods when able to try and get in more than 50 grams a day as fiber helps to balance glucose."


Cortisol Levels

stressed woman

Lisa Richards, a nutritionist and author of the Candida Diet says, "Cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, can make losing visceral fat more difficult. Elevated cortisol and the inflammation it causes can create many negative health issues and these issues can impact the person's nutrition. The primary way inflammation caused by cortisol causes nutrient issues in the body is through gastrointestinal problems. The cortisol flooding the body, and gut, along with inflammation cause digestion and absorption of nutrients to become compromised. This leads to the potential for nutrient deficiencies, loss of appetite, indigestion, and irritated or inflamed gut lining. All of these can then lead to an imbalance in the gut's microbiome, which further exacerbates these issues. All this can ultimately result in abdominal weight gain and increased visceral fat."


Causes of Visceral Fat

Plump fat obese young caucasian woman doing stretching exercises at home

Dr. Mitchell explains, "There are a few different factors that can contribute to the development of visceral fat. One of the most common is a sedentary lifestyle. When we lead a sedentary lifestyle, our bodies are not spending as much energy, which can cause us to store more fat. Another factor contributing to visceral fat accumulation is a diet high in refined carbohydrates and simple sugars. These foods are quickly converted to sugar in the body, which can then be stored as fat. Finally, stress can also play a role in the development of visceral fat. When stressed, our bodies release hormones that signal the body to store more fat."


How to Help Prevent Visceral Fat


"There are some things that you can do to help prevent its accumulation," Dr. Mitchell states. "First, make sure to get regular exercise. This will help to expend energy and reduce stress levels. Second, eat a healthy diet that is low in refined carbs and simple sugars. And last, try to manage stress levels by practicing relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation. By taking these steps, you can help to reduce your risk of developing visceral fat."

Dr. Mitchell says this "doesn't constitute medical advice and by no means are these answers meant to be comprehensive. Rather, it's to encourage discussions about health choices."

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