Visceral fat is a certain type of fat found inside our abdominal cavity. It’s stored around internal organs like the liver, pancreas, kidneys, intestines and pancreas. The other type of fat, stored just under the skin is called subcutaneous fat. This is the fat you can pinch between your fingers and is your energy store.
How Visceral Fat affects our health
Visceral fat is different to subcutaneous fat. It feels harder (think beer belly) and releases chemical messengers into the bloodstream which increase low-grade, harmful inflammation and fatty acids, affecting liver function and triggering health problems.
Visceral fat is linked with an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, dementia and some cancers. The inflammatory chemicals released by visceral fat can also affect hormone balance, disrupting mood, hunger and weight.
Fat cells can also store toxins and even pathogens such as viruses. The body sees fat as a safe storage space and if the fat is coating your internal organs, this isn’t a great place to store them.
You might not know you have visceral fat. Even slim people (with a normal BMI) can have accumulations of visceral fat without knowing it’s there. Generally a waist measurement of more than 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men, means you are more likely to have visceral fat.
Reducing fat anywhere in your body also decreases visceral fat. A healthy lifestyle that includes cardio exercise, eating fibre-rich plant foods, avoiding too many carbs and sugar and reducing processed fats and alcohol can all help decrease fat.
To specifically target visceral fat, add in high Intensity exercises and ensure you get enough quality sleep. Avoiding foods rich in fructose such as soft drinks sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup can help reduce visceral fat accumulation.
Stress makes you fat!
The importance of managing stress can’t be ignored here! When you’re stressed, the body releases cortisol. Visceral fat has more receptors for cortisol than other fat. If stress continues, cortisol will be consistently high, encouraging your body to lay down more fat around your middle. Once this fat accumulates, you’ll tend to produce more cortisol, even after the stressful event has passed. The end result is you will inevitably accumulate more and more visceral fat in a stress/fat vicious cycle.
Some studies have shown that taking care of the health of the bacteria in your gut by giving supplements of healthy bacteria can help reduce abdominal obesity. So, ensuring healthy gut bacteria may help to combat visceral fat.
Accumulation of visceral fat is a sign your body needs support. Imbalances, especially in your hormonal system can affect how well (or not) you burn off stored fat.
If you’re finding it hard to lose fat around your stomach, contact me. Functional testing can look at hormones to see if cortisol is in balance, evaluate gut health and reveal inflammation. A combination of personalised dietary, supplement and lifestyle measures can then optimise your metabolic health.