Also known as visceral fat, it is considered the most harmful form of fat in your body.
This type of fat has been linked to many conditions, from insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes to an increased risk of certain cancers.
In general, you should work to reduce fat throughout the body, especially the middle part of the body, to decrease the risk of diseases and disorders related to obesity.
Distinguish belly fat from other types of fat
Types of fat
Triglycerides – This type of fat circulates in your bloodstream. It makes up about 95 percent of the fat within your body.
Subcutaneous fat: This fat is the layer that is found directly under the surface of the skin, between the skin and the abdominal wall.
Visceral Fat : Also known as dangerous belly fat, visceral fat is the kind that is found deep within your abdomen.
Your body contains subcutaneous fat, which is found just under the skin, and visceral fat, the deep belly fat that surrounds your internal organs.
The abdomen has both types of fat. The fat that you can easily pinch is subcutaneous, and the kind that pushes the midsection out of the way is called visceral fat.
Both types of fat occur when you eat a lot of calories, more than you burn in a day, but visceral fat is the deadlier of the two.
Women during their childbearing years tend to store more subcutaneous fat in the hips, thighs, and buttocks; men, however, almost always consume excess calories as mostly visceral fat.
As women enter peri-menopause and menopause, the change in hormones also causes them to store more fat in the stomach.
What Visceral Fat Does To Your Body
Fat was once thought to be just a passive substance; people thought it just stayed as stored energy.
But, in fact, fat is more active than previously thought. The latest research shows that fat cells, including visceral and subcutaneous fat cells, are metabolically active, secreting hormones and chemicals that can affect every organ in your body.
When you’re at an ideal weight, the hormones and chemicals secreted by fat cells are really healthy.
They do a number of positive things, such as regulating insulin, helping regulate your appetite by allowing you to feel full after eating, and even helping burn stored fat.
There are many chronic health conditions that are caused or made worse by this dangerous fat.
Belly fat is different from other areas due to visceral fat. Most of the fat in our body is considered subcutaneous fat.
This fat is found just below the surface of the skin. The fat in and around our belly is made up of subcutaneous fat and visceral fat, which is deep in our abdomens.
This visceral or abdominal fat clumps our organs together and leads to serious health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, and even some types of cancer.
Belly fat has even been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer and gallbladder problems in women.
Belly fat has been found to be more important than your weight or BMI in predicting health problems.
Even if you are considered ‘normal weight’, having this deep visceral fat will put you at serious risk for health problems.
In a study of 12,000 participants, those with excess belly fat were more likely to die from any cause, even more than those who were considered obese.
Are you worried that you may be at risk?
Just open the tape measure to see how you are doing. Take a deep breath and let it out. Wrap the tape measure around your abdomen, just above your hip bones.
Men with a waist circumference over 40 inches and women over 35 inches may be at higher risk for visceral fat.
Causes of abdominal fat
Abdominal fat with age
Age can contribute to belly fat.
If you carry extra weight in between, you may be looking for abdominal fat causes and cures. Belly fat is not only unpleasant, it is also unhealthy.
The reason belly fat is considered unhealthy is because it increases your risk of heart disease.
Women with waists over 34 inches and men whose waists are over 40 inches are at the highest risk.
It also matters where the fat is stored. If it is found near and around the abdominal organs, it is called abdominal fat and has an increased risk of flaccid (subcutaneous) fat being located between the skin and the abdominal wall.
Poor diet and lack of exercise are mainly the fault of belly fat. However, there are other factors that influence an increase in belly fat.
Genetics influence how we store fat. You’ve probably heard that apple-shaped people are at a higher risk for heart disease.
That’s because apple-shaped people store fat in the middle. Pear-shaped people tend to gain weight around the hips and thighs. How we carry our fat is often inherited.
Age and metabolism
Like it or not, as we age our metabolism slows down. This is most often attributed to the loss of lean muscle mass over time.
Lean muscle mass helps burn calories. On the other hand, many people are less active as they age and this encourages unused calories to be stored as fat.
This is true for both men and women, although women tend to gain even more body fat with age.
Unfortunately for women, another factor that contributes to increased belly fat is menopause.
With the related hormonal changes taking place during this time, the distribution of body fat is likely to change with more harvesting in between.
Some women may experience a wider waist even while maintaining their normal weight.
Have you ever felt like eating on a stressful day? What you may not realize is that when your body is stressed, it releases a hormone called cortisol.
Your liver responds to this cortisol by making more sugar. Hunger pains tell you that you are hungry and you decide that you need something to eat.
If you gain weight, stress may be the culprit. While stress is a part of life, many people don’t realize that it can affect the size of your belly.
Health problems that can be caused by belly fat
Heart disease is probably the most serious consequence of having that spare tire around the midsection of the body.
According to the researchers, visceral fat is so dangerous because these fat cells pump cytokines into the body.
Cytokines are chemicals that affect our cells’ ability to regulate insulin and blood pressure.
When our bodies can’t regulate organ function, the heart takes a hit. Having these cytokines floating is linked to heart disease.
Does gender matter?
Both men and women are at risk for heart disease, but at different stages in their lives.
Young women tend to carry weight on the hips and thighs, while young men generally add weight to the belly.
This may be why men in their 30s and 40s are more likely to have heart disease than women.
As women age and reach menopause, they tend to be at higher risk for belly fat. They are also at increased risk for heart disease as they age.
In fact, the Harvard Women’s Health Watch study found that visceral fat causes high blood pressure and high cholesterol in women, contributing to chronic heart disease.
We know that excess fat puts us at higher risk for diabetes. Being overweight or obese actually makes us 90 times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
However, it is more than just being overweight. Belly fat contributes to the risk of diabetes because it affects the functioning of our organs.
Studies have shown that people with deep abdominal fat begin to lose insulin sensitivity.
Insulin is the hormone that regulates blood sugar levels, so when our bodies don’t respond to it, sugar wreaks havoc on our systems.
When our blood sugar levels continue to be high over time, we develop diabetes.
According to the World Health Organization, up to a third of colon , kidney and digestive tract cancers can be related to being overweight. This is a huge number, and visceral fat makes the problem worse.
We know that cancer is caused by a mutation in our cells. When we have excess fat, it signals our body to produce hormones that cause our cells to divide and multiply.
The more our cells divide, the more chance we have that one of them will mutate into a cancer cell. So more fat equals more chances for cancer to develop.
If your partner keeps you up all night snoring, the problem may be more serious than just a deep nose.
People with bigger visceral fat bellies are at a higher risk for sleep apnea. Sleep apnea causes you to stop breathing for a few seconds.
The result is a night full of snoring, waking up, and feeling restless. Losing weight can improve or even cure sleep apnea.
Aches and pains
Having excess belly fat usually means weak abdominal muscles. Your yoga teacher wasn’t kidding when she told you that your core is your body’s source of energy.
Having a strong core protects us from injury, improves our balance, and keeps our joints healthy.
A strong core is also the best way to keep your back safe and healthy. When your core is weak, your back muscles must compensate. This can lead to chronic pain and back strains.
How to lose it
While it is not possible to target just one area of the body to lose weight, you can still lose that belly fat.
Visceral fat responds to a healthy diet, and exercise changes in the same way as any fat in your body, so if you’re ready to make some changes, it will be worth it!
Researchers have found that eating soluble fiber and participating in moderate activities can help reduce visceral fat. Soluble fiber is found in oatmeal, fruits, vegetables, and beans.
Change your diet
The first step to losing weight, including belly fat, is to control your diet. Start preparing meals with plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds.
Look for lean protein sources like fish or low-fat dairy products. Try to stay away from processed meat.
And don’t forget about the portions. A handful of almonds is a healthy snack, but eating that whole bag will still add excess fat to your body.
Try cooking at home more, or share a giant restaurant with a friend. Oh, and we know you’re still not drinking soda all day, but if your “friend” is, slap him by the hand. Try to stick with water and tea.
The next step to lose belly fat is exercise. 150 minutes of moderate activity each week is recommended, so instead of meeting your friends for coffee, ask if they want to walk through a local park or shopping district.
Strength training can also improve belly fat. Our bodies were designed to move.
Belly fat and self-esteem
Although belly fat and self-esteem are two very different, there is a direct connection between them.
It is proven that people who accumulate fat in the body or who are overweight have lower self-esteem than people who are fit and healthy.
Health is paramount and self-esteem complements it. A healthy mind in a healthy body.