What is Visceral Fat? How to Reduce It?

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What is Visceral Fat? How to Reduce It? Blog – HealthifyMe Blog – HealthifyMe – The definitive guide to weight loss, fitness and living a healthier life.

Fat is an essential component of the human body and plays several important roles. It stores energy, protects vital internal organs, helps with insulation and body temperature regulations, hormone production etc. Though it is important to note that some amount of body fat is necessary for optimal functioning, excessive fat accumulation increases the risk of various health conditions. There are two forms of fat present in the body, i.e. Subcutaneous Fat and Visceral fat. This article will shed some light on visceral fat, its importance and factors contributing to its accumulation. 

Defining Visceral Fat

Visceral fat refers to the fat that accumulates deep within the abdominal cavity, surrounding the internal organs such as the liver, pancreas, and intestines. Unlike subcutaneous fat, which is found just beneath the skin, visceral fat is located deeper within the body. Its major role is to form a protective cushion around the internal organs. However, excessive amounts of visceral fat can have detrimental effects on health.

Why Do You Need to Know About Visceral Fat?

Understanding visceral fat is essential to be aware of your overall health. It is due to its association with various health risks. Unlike subcutaneous fat, which is relatively harmless, an excessive amount of visceral fat is metabolically active and releases certain chemicals or hormones that can negatively impact the body. Studies show that visceral fat has been linked to an increased risk of developing chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers.

Characteristics of Visceral Fat  

1. Metabolically Active

Visceral Fat is metabolically active, meaning it is not just an inert storage depot of energy but it actively participates in various metabolic processes in the body. It releases various molecules and hormones known as adipokines, including inflammatory substances, free fatty acids, and cytokines. Studies have confirmed that these substances can impact the body and contribute to chronic low-grade inflammation, insulin resistance, and other metabolic disturbances.

2. Blood Supply

Visceral fat has a rich blood supply. It is highly vascularized, meaning it has a rich network of blood vessels that supply oxygen, nutrients, and hormones to the fat tissue. Generally, it drains by the portal vein, which carries blood from the gastrointestinal tract to the liver. So, its close connection to the liver allows visceral fat to release fatty acids directly into the liver, leading to increased production of triglycerides and cholesterol. According to various studies, this process can contribute to the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

3. Hormonal Influence

Visceral fat plays a significant role in hormonal regulation. It produces hormones such as leptin, adiponectin, and resistin, which can modulate metabolism, inflammation, insulin sensitivity, and appetite regulation. Imbalances in these hormones due to excess visceral fat can contribute to metabolic disorders and chronic diseases.

4. Surrounding the Organs

The location of visceral fat around the organs helps in cushioning vital organs from impact. However, excessive presence of visceral fat adheres tightly to the organs in the abdominal cavity, wraps around and infiltrates the organs, potentially compromising their function. Excessive accumulation of visceral fat can cause organ compression and displacement, affecting their normal physiological processes.

5. Association with Apple Shaped Body Type

One of its characteristics is also about being associated with apple shaped body type because of excess fat accumulation around the abdomen. This distribution of fat is more common in men than women and is considered a higher-risk pattern in terms of associated health problems. 

Summary

Visceral fat is metabolically active, releasing molecules and hormones that contribute to inflammation and metabolic disturbances. It has a rich blood supply, drains through the portal vein to the liver, and can contribute to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. It produces hormones, impacts organ function, and is associated with an apple-shaped body type, posing health risks. 

Excessive Visceral Fat and Chronic Diseases

Excessive accumulation of visceral fat is firmly associated with an increased risk of various chronic diseases. The close proximity of visceral fat to vital organs and its metabolic activity contribute to the development of these health risks. Here are some key relationships between visceral fat and chronic diseases:

1. Cardiovascular Diseases

Visceral fat is particularly detrimental to cardiovascular health. The release of inflammatory substances, adipokines, and free fatty acids from visceral fat can contribute to the development of plaque in the arteries, leading to narrowed blood vessels. This can result in reduced blood flow, high blood pressure, and an elevated risk of heart attacks and other cardiovascular events.

2. High Blood Pressure

According to studies, visceral fat, located deep within the abdominal cavity, releases inflammatory substances that can increase blood pressure. These substances interfere with normal blood vessel function and promote constriction, leading to spiked blood pressure. Additionally, visceral fat contributes to insulin resistance and metabolic dysfunction, further worsening the risk of hypertension.

3. Type 2 Diabetes

Visceral fat exacerbates type 2 diabetes by releasing inflammatory molecules that impair insulin signaling and promote insulin resistance. This disrupts glucose regulation, leading to high blood sugar levels. Visceral fat also secretes hormones and cytokines that contribute to chronic low-grade inflammation, further exacerbating insulin resistance and the risk of diabetes.

4. Metabolic Syndrome

Visceral fat is a key component of metabolic syndrome, which is a cluster of conditions that includes high blood pressure, high blood sugar, abnormal cholesterol levels, and excess abdominal fat. There is enough evidence that proves excessive visceral fat accumulation is a primary contributor to metabolic syndrome, as it influences insulin resistance, dyslipidemia, and hypertension. The combination of these risk factors significantly increases the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and other health complications.

Impact Of Excessive Visceral Fat on Organs

1. Liver

Research on visceral fat has shown that it impacts the liver by releasing fatty acids and inflammatory substances directly into the liver through the portal vein. This can lead to the accumulation of fat in liver cells, resulting in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Excessive visceral fat is associated with inflammation, insulin resistance, and an increased risk of developing more severe liver conditions such as non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).

2. Pancreas

Visceral fat impacts the pancreas through various mechanisms. Studies say that excess visceral fat is associated with an increased risk of developing insulin resistance and impaired pancreatic beta-cell function. Visceral fat releases proinflammatory substances and hormones that can interfere with insulin signaling, disrupt glucose regulation, and contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes and pancreatic dysfunction.

3. Heart

Visceral fat is strongly linked to cardiovascular disease. The release of inflammatory substances and hormones from visceral fat can contribute to the development of atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, and an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.

4. Hormonal glands

Visceral fat is metabolically active and releases various inflammatory substances. It can disrupt the balance of hormones produced by various glands, such as the adrenal glands and the ovaries in women. This can have implications for hormonal regulation and overall endocrine health. The dysregulation of these hormones can further contribute to insulin resistance, metabolic disorders, and an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Summary

Visceral fat impacts the liver by causing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), affects the pancreas by promoting insulin resistance and impaired function, contributes to cardiovascular disease, and disrupts hormonal balance, leading to metabolic disorders and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

Reasons for Excessive Visceral Fat Accumulation

Diet and nutrition: Diet plays a major role in excessive fat accumulation. Consuming a diet high in calories, unhealthy fats, added sugars, and processed foods can contribute to the condition. Also, excessive alcohol consumption  can contribute to the deposition of visceral fat.

Sedentary lifestyle: Leading a sedentary lifestyle and not engaging in regular physical activity can promote visceral fat accumulation. Lack of exercise also negatively impacts metabolism, insulin sensitivity, and hormone regulation, further contributing to visceral fat gain.

Genetics and family history: There is plenty of evidence that proves that genetic factors play a role in determining the distribution of body fat, including visceral fat. Some individuals may be genetically predisposed to storing more fat in the abdominal region.

Hormonal changes: Hormonal imbalances can influence the accumulation of visceral fat. For instance, hormonal changes associated with aging, such as decreased levels of estrogen in women during menopause, can lead to an increase in visceral fat. Hormones like cortisol, which is released in response to stress, can also contribute to visceral fat accumulation.

Strategies to Reduce Visceral Fat

These will help you manage your visceral fat percentage in the body. Here are a few things that you can do. 

1. Diet Modification

Focus on a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. These foods are nutrient-dense, and help control calorie intake, which can contribute to reducing visceral fat. Also, avoid having sugary beverages, processed snacks, and foods high in saturated and trans fats. 

2. Incorporate Regular Physical Exercise

Engage in aerobic and strength training activities like brisk walking, jogging, weightlifting etc. These activities help burn calories, promote weight loss, and reduce overall body fat, including visceral fat.

3. Stress Management

Chronic stress and inadequate sleep can contribute to weight gain and visceral fat accumulation. Implement stress management techniques like meditation, deep breathing exercises, or yoga to reduce stress levels. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night to support overall health and weight management.

4. Medical Interventions 

In certain cases, medical interventions may be considered to reduce visceral fat. These can include interventions such as bariatric surgery, liposuction, or medication prescribed by healthcare professionals. These interventions are typically reserved for individuals with severe obesity or specific medical conditions.

HealthifyMe Suggestion

While working on healthy lifestyle modifications, eliminating bad habits and adopting good habits needs dedication, discipline and most importantly – consistency. Changing multiple habits at once, can be overwhelming and you can lose motivation.

 It’s best to start with small goals with one change at a time. Like dropping all processed foods, unhealthy fatty snacks in the first week. Later every week there is one small change like adding 1 bowl of salad before major meals, improving hydration with help of our app reminders, working on sleep routine, etc. Start with a 30-35 minutes exercise routine and slowly increase duration and intensity. Most of us work in front of a computer or have a desk job so to maintain metabolism try to stay active throughout the day, set every 1-2 hours reminder to move around or do some quick stretching exercises. Small changes lead to big achievements of healthy fat loss and reducing extra visceral fats too.

Conclusion

Reducing visceral fat is crucial for maintaining optimal health. Its association with chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure highlights the significance of addressing this issue. By adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet, regular exercise, stress management, and quality sleep, individuals can effectively reduce visceral fat and improve their overall well-being. Prioritizing these habits will lead to a healthier and happier life.

Disclaimer: The purpose of this article is just to disperse knowledge and raise awareness. It does not intend to replace medical advice from professionals. For further information please contact our certified nutritionists Here

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. How do you lose visceral fat?

To lose visceral fat, a combination of a healthy diet and regular exercise is key. Focus on consuming a balanced diet rich in whole foods and low in added sugars and unhealthy fats. Engage in aerobic exercises, such as running or swimming, and strength training to help burn fat and build muscle. Consistency and creating a calorie deficit through a healthy lifestyle are essential for losing visceral fat.

2. What is the main cause of visceral fat?

The main causes of visceral fat accumulation include poor dietary choices, sedentary lifestyle, genetic factors, hormonal changes, and chronic stress. Consuming a diet high in processed foods, added sugars, and unhealthy fats can contribute to the buildup of visceral fat. Lack of physical activity and prolonged sitting also play a significant role in its development.

3. How much visceral fat is normal?

There is no specific measurement for normal visceral fat. However, health guidelines suggest that intentionally  a healthy range for waist circumference is typically less than 40 inches for men and less than 35 inches for women. For Indians Male less than or equal to 30 inches

Females less than or equal to 28 inches. A healthy body weight and a balanced distribution of fat throughout the body are generally associated with lower levels of visceral fat.

4. Is visceral fat the same as belly fat?

Visceral fat and belly fat are not exactly the same, although they are closely related. Visceral fat refers to the fat stored around the organs in the abdominal cavity, while belly fat is a more general term used to describe fat located in the abdominal area. Belly fat can include both subcutaneous fat (fat beneath the skin) and visceral fat.

5. What burns the most visceral fat?

Engaging in regular aerobic exercises, such as running, cycling, or swimming, can effectively burn visceral fat. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) has also been shown to be effective. Additionally, strength training exercises that build muscle can help increase overall metabolism, leading to fat burning, including visceral fat.

6. What foods reduce visceral fat?

Foods that can help reduce visceral fat include those high in fiber, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Protein-rich foods like lean meats, fish, eggs, and legumes can also aid in fat loss. Healthy fats from sources like avocados, nuts, and olive oil are beneficial. It’s important to avoid sugary beverages, processed foods, and excessive alcohol consumption.

7. Will I lose visceral fat first?

The order in which you lose fat can vary from person to person. As you create a calorie deficit through a balanced diet and regular exercise, your body will begin to burn stored fat, including visceral fat.

Research Sources

Visceral Obesity and Its Shared Role in Cancer and Cardiovascular Disease: A Scoping Review of the Pathophysiology and Pharmacological Treatments
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7730690/Visceral Fat Adipokine Secretion Is Associated With Systemic Inflammation in Obese Humans
https://diabetesjournals.org/diabetes/article/56/4/1010/12937/Visceral-Fat-Adipokine-Secretion-Is-AssociatedObesity, Visceral Fat, and NAFLD: Querying the Role of Adipokines in the Progression of Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3168494/Role of body visceral fat in hypertension and dyslipidemia among the diabetic and nondiabetic ethnic population of Tripura—A comparative study
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7491841/#:~:text=Body%20visceral%20fat%20is%20generally,risk%20of%20serious%20health%20problems.Abdominal obesity and metabolic syndrome: exercise as medicine?
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5935926/Metabolic effects of visceral fat accumulation in type 2 diabetes
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12414878/Effect of abdominal fat distribution on severity of acute pancreatitis
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8527344/Visceral fat: a key mediator of steatohepatitis in metabolic liver disease
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18627003/Genetics of Body Fat Distribution: Comparative Analyses in Populations with European, Asian and African Ancestries
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8228180/

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