Visceral fat, also known as belly fat, is the fat that surrounds the internal organs in the abdominal cavity. It is different from subcutaneous fat, which is the fat that lies just under the skin. Visceral fat is considered more dangerous because it has been linked to various health problems. Below we discuss how visceral fat can affect our health and tips to reduce it.
7 Ways visceral fat negatively impacts our health:
1. Increased risk of heart disease
Visceral fat releases substances called cytokines, which promote inflammation and contribute to the development of heart disease. It also increases the production of LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and triglycerides, leading to a greater risk of cardiovascular issues.
2. Diabetes and insulin resistance
Visceral fat interferes with insulin action in the body, leading to insulin resistance and an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance occurs when cells fail to respond properly to insulin, resulting in elevated blood sugar levels.
3. Metabolic syndrome
Visceral fat is strongly associated with metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, abnormal cholesterol levels, and excess abdominal fat. It significantly increases the risk of developing these conditions collectively.
4. Increased risk of certain cancers
Research suggests that visceral fat is linked to an increased risk of developing certain types of cancers, including colorectal, breast, and pancreatic cancer. The exact mechanisms are not fully understood, but inflammation and hormone imbalances caused by visceral fat may play a role.
5. Sleep apnea
Excess visceral fat in the abdomen can lead to obstructions in the airways, contributing to the development of sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep, leading to poor sleep quality, excessive daytime sleepiness, and other complications.
6. Fatty liver disease
Visceral fat releases fatty acids into the liver, which can cause the liver to become overwhelmed and develop fatty liver disease. This condition can lead to inflammation, liver damage, and eventually cirrhosis or liver failure.
7. Overall increased mortality risk
Several studies have shown that individuals with higher amounts of visceral fat are at an increased risk of premature death, independent of other risk factors. This increased mortality risk is likely due to the negative impact visceral fat has on various aspects of health.
Tips to help reduce visceral fat:
- Physical activity helps burn calories and reduce overall body fat, including visceral fat.
- Foods high in soluble fibre, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, can help reduce visceral fat.
- Focus on a diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Minimise your intake of processed foods, sugar, saturated fats, and refined grains.
- Excessive alcohol intake can lead to the accumulation of visceral fat. Moderation is key, so try to limit your alcohol consumption.
- Lack of sleep disrupts hormonal balance and increases appetite, leading to weight gain and visceral fat accumulation. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night.
- Drinking plenty of water can help suppress appetite and boost metabolism, aiding in weight loss and reducing visceral fat.
- Sugary drinks such as sodas and sweetened juices are high in empty calories and can contribute to weight gain and visceral fat accumulation.
If you are struggling to reduce visceral fat or need personalised advice, consider consulting with a registered dietitian or healthcare professional who can create a tailored plan to meet your specific needs.