This Year, Consider Focusing on Lowering Visceral Fat
If you're setting a health goal for the new year, consider ignoring the love handles and focusing on something more dangerous that may lurk beneath the surface: visceral fat.
Of all the fat you carry, visceral adipose tissue (VAT) is the most dangerous to your long-term health.
Unlike subcutaneous fat (the fat you can pinch), visceral fat is packed around your internal organs. Even people who may appear skinny can harbor excess amounts, hidden away deep in the gut.
A DXA scan is the easiest and most cost-effective way to measure your actual visceral fat stores. Otherwise, people usually resort to estimating visceral fat amount using waistline measurements, which can be misleading.
Why is visceral fat so dangerous?
Unlike subcutaneous fat, visceral fat is metabolically active, which means that it secretes hormones and a host of other chemicals that affect several processes within the human body.
As a result, high deposits of visceral fat are associated with serious disorders such as metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.
In fact, visceral fat may be a direct contributor to the development of those conditions.
- An analysis of data collected by the Million Women Study, which followed over one million women in the UK, found that risk of developing heart disease was doubled among the study participants with the largest waists. At any given BMI, women with larger waists had a higher risk of coronary heart disease.
- A 36-year study of 6,583 members of Kaiser Permanente of Northern California found that those with the greatest amount of abdominal obesity in midlife were nearly three times more likely to develop dementia three decades later than those with the least abdominal fat.
- A study that compared the content of different veins and arteries found that visceral fat is a direct source of IL-6 (interleukin-6), which stimulates inflammatory response in many diseases such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.
How can I reduce my VAT?
Reducing your visceral fat may be one of the most effective things you can do to live a longer, healthier life. But how?
Here are some dietary and lifestyle modifications that can help with loss of visceral fat.
- Reducing or eliminating processed, nutrient-poor foods - particularly those that can cause an inflammatory response, and those with added sugar
- Reducing consumption of alcoholic beverages
- Maintaining an active lifestyle. Some studies have found high-intensity interval training (HIIT) more effective in reducing visceral fat than continuous exercise, but the most important thing is to make a habit of exercising, no matter what type you choose
- Managing stress, which can amplify the rate of obesity by signaling your body to store more fat
- Getting adequate deep sleep, to ensure the body has the optimal opportunity to process the stress hormones from the day
While we all need some body fat to live, visceral fat does you no good.
Long-term, your goal should be to reduce visceral fat as much as possible - down to zero pounds if possible!