Visceral Fat: deep, hidden fat with deep health consequences
Can’t pinch an inch of belly fat? You may be a normal, healthy weight, but you could still have excess fat hiding deep inside you, surrounding your vital organs. Visceral fat can’t be seen, and even skinny people aren’t immune from accumulating too much of it.
Subcutaneous fat lies just under your skin. It’s the jiggly stuff you can see in the mirror and pinch with your fingers. But this type of fat is the least of your worries. Hidden visceral fat, which lies deep inside your abdominal cavity, is a much bigger threat to your health.
Why? Visceral fat surrounds your liver, heart, pancreas, digestive tract, and other vital organs and produces inflammatory substances called cytokines that interfere with your organs’ normal functions. These cytokines affect the liver in particular, and affect the types of blood lipids (fats) that are produced, leading to a higher level of “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and lower levels of “good” cholesterol (HDL) in your body.
Visceral fat also actively secretes hormones that affect how you metabolize sugar and how efficiently you burn calories. Visceral fat is linked to increased heart disease, high blood pressure, and increased blood sugar and insulin levels that can lead to type 2 diabetes.
In a 2004 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, obese women had an average of 23 pounds of fat removed by liposuction. The liposuction gave these ladies NO improvement in heart disease risk factors of blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar. (1)
Visceral fat has also been found to contribute to osteoporosis, colon cancer, and higher rates of dementia later in life.
So how can you tell if you have too much visceral fat?
If you’re pear-shaped, this lower-body fat tends to be the subcutaneous variety. If you have an apple shape – meaning you accumulate most of your fat around your waistline – you’re more likely to have more visceral fat. Women with a waist measurement of 35 inches or more, and men with a waistline of 40 inches or more are at high risk of having dangerous levels of visceral fat.
However, visual clues, tape measurements, and calipers can’t actually measure visceral fat.
Want to find out your visceral fat measurement? If you’re in the Orange County/LA area, come visit me for a free 20-minute consultation and discover your visceral fat number. If you need help lowering that number, I’m here to help!
In my next article, I’ll talk about some things that may be making you accumulate dangerous visceral fat, and a few lifestyle changes that can help you get rid of it.
See you there!
In joy and health,
- Klein, S., et al. Absence of an Effect of Liposuction on Insulin Action and Risk Factors for Coronary Heart Disease. N Engl J Med 2004; 350:2549-255717 Jun 2004.