There is a clear distinction that needs to be made to understand – not all fat is the same.
Everyone has a degree of body fat, it’s needed to help support us through life. Fat helps provide key metabolic functions and support us with energy and helps support our organs.
But you’ve probably not been versed with what is important for you to measure – and that is Visceral Fat. This is the type of fat you really want to know about and by understanding what it is, we can begin to help you on your weight loss journey.
Introduction – What is Visceral Fat?
First, some definitions.
Visceral fat is body fat which is stored within the abdominal cavity. It covers important organs- such as your liver, pancreas, stomach and intestines and can also build up in the arteries. This type of fat is extremely dangerous for your health and wellbeing. You may have heard of Visceral fat also being referred to as “active fat”, due to its active nature in creating health issues 1
Subcutaneous fat is fat which is stored under the skin, the type of fat you can feel on your arms and legs. This type of fat, while also bad for you, is easier to see and often easier to manage. Once the fat gets trapped inside your abdomen and around your organs, that’s when things become dangerous 2
What are the health implications of Visceral Fat?
Visceral fat can cause all sorts of health issues. Some of the health risks of Visceral fat include:
- Heart attacks and heart disease
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Colorectal and Breast cancer
- High blood pressure
What’s more, high amounts of Visceral fat increases insulin resistance. Research has found that Visceral secretes cytokines (substances that get secreted by cells in your body), which create an inflammation that builds up insulin resistance.
This inflammation can be harmful for your liver. Because toxins in your body go through your liver, as your body produces more visceral fat, some of the fat covers up toxins carrying some of the toxins directly to your liver. As this builds up, your body begins to build up inflammation in the liver, your body can no longer flush out these toxins which subsequently cause more health issues such as insulin resistance.
This increase in insulin resistance can ultimately lead to diabetes and/or heart disease as insulin is the regulator to use incoming fuel as energy. Without a properly function insulin system, your body stores the sugar in your blood stream as fat instead of utilising it as energy, which keeps compounding the issue of storing more fat.
How do I measure the amount of visceral fat?
Visceral fat isn’t easy to measure without an MRI scan, as Visceral fat is deep within your abdominal cavity. Unlike Subcutaneous fat which can be seen, measuring visceral fat can quickly become expensive and time-consuming.
Harvard Health suggests approx. 10% of a person’s body fat will be visceral fat. So, if you weight 85kg, and have a body fat percentage of 20% that would mean your body fat in KG is 17kg, and about 1.7kg of that is visceral fat surrounding your organs. Generally, if you’re a woman with a waist size of over 35 inches, or a man with a waist size of over 40 inches, you’re highly likely to have an unhealthy amount of visceral fat in your body.
Why would I get visceral fat?
There is still a lot of research going into this topic, particularly why Visceral Fat gets stored around your organs by the body. Research indicates that stress is one of the factors, as when we stress our body releases cortisol which has the causal effect of storing visceral fat. Naturally, the poorer your diet, the more likely you are to store fat and the greater the chance of the fat being stored becomes visceral, if combined with work/life stress. It’s important therefore to understand what you can do to a) get rid of fat and b) how to prevent it from coming back.
How do I get rid off the fat?
Paradoxically, the best way of burning through fat is to eat more fat. Following the Keto diet, which supports increasing healthy fat intake and reducing carbohydrates, ultimately teaches your body to burn fat as the primary fuel instead of carbohydrates. However, this is an extreme form of diet which will initially be tough – the first 3 days are usually the toughest where you suffer from the “keto-flu” as your body makes the shift of burning from carbs to fats. Sometimes, an extreme step is what it takes, particularly if you’re measuring high with visceral fat.
However, if you’re moderately overweight, or just want to make some lifestyle changes, then a clean diet is the best first step.
While a Keto Diet is a more extreme form of dieting, eating foods such as vegetables which are rich in natural minerals, fibre, naturally low in refined carbs and added sugars (i.e. nothing processed!) can have a major impact. Often, foods with added sugars are contributing to the weight gain and body response of storing food as fat due to impaired insulin functioning. By replacing sugary foods and controlling your portions, you should notice a difference in weight and therefore, visceral fat.
Stay active and workout
If you’re anything like the next person, you’re waking up, commuting to work, working, commuting home, spending some time doing your life-admin, cooking, cleaning, maybe watching something or working on your side-hustle, then going to bed.
It can be annoyingly difficult to find time to be active. But maybe investing in a smart-watch will do the trick by helping motivate you to walk around more during the day. Instead of driving out on your lunch break, or worse, sitting down, go for a walk. Once you park-up home, maybe go for a brisk, 10-minute walk around the block if you can? Adding in those extra 1,000 – 2,000 steps per day will help you reach your goal.
So there you have it. Visceral fat is around 10% or more of your body fat, which surrounds your organs and can cause numerous health issues such as heart attacks and diabetes if not properly managed. A primary root cause of this is usually stress, so it would be best to take time out of your day to self reflect or do some meditation in order to fully relax.
Try to meditate, eat clean and workout to reduce your unhealthy body fat and make more manageable. If you need something a bit more extreme, the Keto diet is probably your quickest, and someone painful (mentally!) route to reduce your fat by consuming more fat.