When it comes to our body, all fats are not created equal and nor do they have the same effect on our well being! Visceral fat and subcutaneous fats are two modes in which our body stores the fat cells.
While subcutaneous fats can be found to be distributed across our body parts, Visceral fats are only stored in the abdominal area, around organs such as liver, stomach, and intestines and can also assemble in the arteries.
Hence the concept of apple shaped (largely visceral fats in abdomen area) and pear-shaped bodies (largely subcutaneous fats around the buttocks and thighs). Subcutaneous fats are beneficial to a certain degree and help protect us against cardio-metabolic disorders such as Diabetes.
However, recent studies have established that the accumulation of visceral fats is highly dangerous and makes one susceptible to metabolic syndrome and related issues like Diabetes, Hypertension, Atherosclerosis, and Obesity.
What leads to high visceral fat?
Processed Food and Inactive Lifestyle
Too much carbohydrate and fat-rich foods, inflammation, and chronic stress can cause excess visceral fats. When poor diet and faulty lifestyle lead obesity, stress intensifies the storage of visceral fats by stimulating neurotransmitter NPY and the hormone cortisol.
Smoking and Alcoholism
Visceral fat levels have been observed to be much higher in men and women that smoke on regular basis or in those who consume excess alcohol on regular basis. However, subcutaneous fat levels were not observed to be high in smokers. This indicates that smoking and alcoholism lead to the accumulation of belly fat in the abdominal cavity.
Genetic Factors and Hormones
Genetic causes and hormones also contribute to the accumulation of visceral fat in the stomach. According to some studies, cortisol (stress hormone) and insulin help amplify the accumulation of visceral fat, but healthy levels of growth hormone and sex hormones help reduce its formation.
It has been observed that men are more susceptible to have a higher percentage of Visceral Fats than women of the same age group. Similarly, the visceral fat portion may increase with age in both genders.
Visceral fat and insulin resistance
Excess accumulation of visceral fats increases resistance to insulin, which leads to glucose intolerance and types 2 diabetes. According to researches, visceral secretes a protein called retinol-binding protein 4 (RBP4) and increases resistance to insulin. Alternatively, blood insulin levels are also associated with the accumulation of excess body fat, indicating a never-ending cycle of one leading to the other.
Health risks associated with visceral fat
Everybody has a certain amount of visceral fat but people having a larger quantity of visceral fat are more susceptible to the following health conditions. This is because Visceral Fats are several times more sensitive to hormones in our bloodstream.
In fact, Visceral Fats are biologically active and they release certain hormones that can cause metabolic disturbances and chronic conditions of heart and liver. Inflammatory cells are more prevalent in visceral fat than any other adipose tissues.
They store and release fat cells (free fatty acids) faster than any other fats. Also whenever they release fatty acids, they straightway release them into the liver, thus overloading the liver and hampering its ability to function.
This results in liver dumping the free fatty acids into the bloodstream as triglycerides, raising cholesterol levels, increasing insulin resistance, and also hardening of the arteries. Hence, there is a strong connection between visceral fat deposition, heart stroke, and Diabetes.
Here are the potential health issues one would be exposed to due to high visceral fats:
- Type 2 Diabetes – Insulin resistance, raised blood sugar levels
- Causes Cancers of Breast, Prostrate, and Colon
- Heart disease – High cholesterol levels, hardening of arteries, and heart stroke
- Colorectal cancer
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Sexual dysfunction
- Sleep disorders
- Disrupts hormonal function, hence affecting our overall wellbeing.
- It hampers the immune system response by releasing cytokines that increase cardiovascular disorders.
- Increased infections and slow immune response.
How is visceral fat is rated and measured?
Visceral fats can be diagnosed properly with a CT or MRI scan. But, these processes are expensive and time-consuming. Alternatively, medical practitioners use common guidelines to assess your visceral fats and the health problems your body faces.
As per Harvard University note, about 10% of total fat of a human body is probably stored as visceral fat. So, it is obvious that obese persons carry more visceral fat than a healthy person. Additionally, one’s belly can also be an indicator of visceral fat.
Measurement of waistline can also indicate the presence of visceral fat. Harvard Women’s Health Watch and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health say that a woman with waist size 35 inches or more, you are at risk for health problems from visceral fat. Men with waist size 40 inches or larger are at risk for health problems.
The levels of visceral fat in a human body should be under 13. If it is in between 13–59, you need to change your lifestyle immediately.
How to get rid of visceral fat?
Visceral fat can be easily controlled by exercise, diet, and lifestyle changes as it yields fairly easily to all the measures. The benefits would range from lowered cholesterol levels, lower blood sugar levels, and lowered blood pressure. Here are some techniques by which you can reduce your visceral fat.
Avoid Processed Foods
- All processed foods are loaded with unhealthy fats, sugar, and salt that dump too many calories too fast, hence overloading our organs.
- Since the liver cannot break down the sugars and complex fats at this rate, it straight away dumps the majority of the processed food into visceral fat.
- Hence, if you consume too many sugary drinks and foods or unhealthy fat laden foods, you will be more prone to high levels of Visceral fats.
If you get physically active, your visceral fat will come down. In fact, out of all the ways to reduce belly fat, ones that combine dietary changes along with physical activity are most effective of all.
Moderate exercises for at least half an hour can work wonders to fight off the toughest fats and bring them down. Aerobics, yoga, circuit training, biking, running are some examples of cardio exercises which help a lot in burning fat faster.
It has been studied that consistent and moderate level of exercise works that the best instead of a short and intense workout. Strength training exercises like squats, weights, and push-ups help burn fat slowly because your muscles become stronger and accumulate more energy.
It has been found that stress hormone cortisol is responsible for increasing the storage of visceral fat in your body. Thus, reducing the stress in life will help in losing visceral fat. You should practice mindfulness on daily basis. Examples are meditation, deep breathing exercises, and stress management to stay stress-free.
Take a balanced diet
Besides exercises and stress management practices, a healthy and balanced diet has a great effect in decreasing visceral fats. You have to include foods like proteins vegetables, and complex carbohydrate for example; sweet potatoes, beans, and lentils in your regular diet instead of processed, high-sugar, high-fat foods.
To switch to healthy eating and to know about foods that will help you cut belly fat, follow the recipes and embrace foods in our Super nutritious Recipes section.
Get a good sleep of minimum 7 hours
A good sleep of at least seven to eight hours at night can have a better effect on hormone secretion and blood hormone levels. As a result of restful sleep, our appetite and stress hormones get reorganized; metabolism increases, and we stop craving for food.
To get sufficient sleep, try different soothing essential oils before bed, stay in a calm mood, take a bath, reduce excess caffeine, and sleep in a dark, peaceful, and cool room.
Ayurvedic formulations to reduce visceral fat
Ayurvedic medicines help tremendously in reducing stubborn belly fat and hence curb many diseases associated with it. Here are some ingredients that can help lose weight and clear the toughest of the fats:
The mixture of three dried fruits (amla, haritaki and bibhitaki), form triphala which has been used in Ayurvedic medicine since ancient times for treating many diseases. It improves digestion, cleanses the stomach and flushes out toxins from the body. As a result, the belly fat gets reduced. You can take this powder with hot water twice a day, half an hour before breakfast and two hours after dinner.
Punarnava is well known for treating obesity. Its diuretic properties keep the kidneys and urinary bladder healthy. It reduces obesity and water retention, by which you discard more weight.
Massage lavan thailam on your belly and wash it off after 15 minutes with warm water. This can melt stubborn belly fat.
Visceral Fat, Insulin Sensitivity, and Lipids in Prepubertal Children