Visceral Fat And Why It’s So Dangerous


Visceral Fat

Nobody likes to hear the word “fat.” It is enough to make anyone, especially someone dieting and exercising on a regular basis, to shutter in their skin. Of course, not all fats are bad.

You’ve got healthy fats packed into foods like avocados and extra virgin olive oil.

But what about visceral fat, and why is there so much going on about how it is especially dangerous?

Before you jump off the deep end start looking up expensive cosmetic surgeries to rid your body of all its fat, you need to know a bit more about what this kind of fat is, how it develops and why it may or may not be so dangerous.

Thankfully, we’ve got all the answers you might need right here.

Different Kinds Of Body Fat

When you look in the mirror and see different areas you’d like to trim down, you probably just see fat. Whether you can feel the soft mass around your midsection or your thighs are a bit larger than you’d like,  you identify the problem as a singular body fat. You can even look into how to lose face fat or how to lose inner thigh fat.

After all, fat is fat, right?

Not exactly.

There are actually different kinds of fat found throughout the body, each of which develops a bit differently and is used in different ways around the body.

Fat, in general, is the storage of excess calories. When your body takes in more calories than it can burn, the added calories are stored in fat cells. The fat can then be metabolized when you need energy (of course there are different sources of energy within the body, but these kinds of energy deposits is another topic altogether).

While fat is used for energy, different kinds of fat are found on your body.

These kinds of fat are white, brown, subcutaneous, belly and visceral.

Brown and White Fat

Brown and White Fat

Only recently has the discovering and the understanding of these two different kinds of fat come about. 

Brown fat is a kind of fat more commonly found in children and, as you age, your amount of brown fat reduces. This may sound like a good thing but think of brown fat as good cholesterol. For starters, brown fat can actually burn calories. While white fat cells are used in hormone production, brown fat burns calories and is used to keep people warm.

Individuals in colder climates are found to have more brown fat cells than those in warmer climates.

Additionally, people who are in shape are found to have a higher percentage of brown to white fat cells (although the white cells still outnumber the brown) when compared to someone who is overweight.

Researchers now believe brown fat is more similar to muscle tissue than other forms of fat due to its ability to burn calories.

The white fat cells manufacture a hormone known as adiponectin.

This, in turn, makes both muscles and the liver sensitive to insulin. This hormone production reduces the chances of you becoming susceptible to both heart disease and diabetes. Now, while a higher percentage of white fat cells to brown cells are found in overweight individuals when compared to leaner people, as you put on weight the adiponectin hormone production slows down or, in more extreme cases, shuts down completely.

This opens you up to heart disease, cardiovascular problems, and diabetes (WebMD, 2009).

Subcutaneous Fat, Belly Fat, and Visceral Fat

This is the fat you see when you look at yourself in the mirror.

It is the motivator fat you want to blast from your body. It is located right under the skin and is most commonly found in the thighs, butt and in the belly.

We’ll come back to the belly in a second, but while subcutaneous fat is, for the most part, undesirable in appearance (especially if you are someone who is constantly hitting up the gym and doing what you can to burn off excess calories and build muscle), this kind of fat, at least in certain regions, isn’t as bad as you might think. While signs of having more calories built up within the body, fat in the thighs or butt do not cause you any additional health problems.

These areas are simply where you store energy.

Belly fat is a bit different. Belly fat is made up of both subcutaneous fat and visceral fat. Visceral fat is the real problem here, and it is why the bulge around your waist has the possibility of being so deadly. Belly fat is its own particular category because it is the combination of these two other forms of fat. But visceral fat is the real danger here.

Another term for visceral is deep. This is in reference to the location of the fat cell in the body. It is not directly on the surface but instead located deeper, around your inner organs.

This kind of fat develops and grows around organs such as the liver, stomach, heart and most other organs of the digestive tract.

Visceral Fat is Dangerous

Why Visceral Fat is Dangerous

So we just went over some surprising health benefits of both white and brown fat cells.

Even the subcutaneous fat cells aren’t all that bad (if not less than desirable to look at).

So (in your best Jerry Seinfeld voice) what’s the deal with visceral fat cells?

As these fat cells grow around your inner organs, your body becomes insulin resistant. This leads to an increase in developing diabetes. People with high levels of this fat have a higher risk of dementia and are more likely to suffer from stroke, heart disease and other cardiovascular diseases (WebMD, 2009).

The exact connection between visceral fat and dementia is not yet known, although it is believed these fat cells release a hormone that affects the brain. Regardless of why exactly it causes dementia, there is a direct connection, which is just another sign as to why

Regardless of why exactly it causes dementia, there is a direct connection, which is just another sign as to why you need to do what you can to limit your visceral fat.

So What Exactly Causes Visceral Fat?

Visceral fat is not something that simply grows in your body because of something specific you are eating.

You can’t just cut out the extra sausage on your pizza and expect it to go away (although dieting does play a part in reducing your level if visceral fat). Visceral and stomach fat develop from not only poor diet but from genetics. If you want to take the fruit shape analogy, there are people who are shaped like pears, and others who are shaped like an apple.

For people who are shaped like a pear, their genetics dictate fat storage to be around the thighs and butt. Regardless of your feeling of this fat build up, very little ends up as visceral fat.

This is especially helpful for women as they enter menopause as it means less fat will build up in this region.

However, on the other end, for apple shaped individuals, fat builds up around their midsection due to genetics. Unfortunately for them (and you, if you happen to be an apple shape), more visceral fat does develop.

So both genetics and age play a major role in the development of visceral fat, although younger individuals can see an increase in this kind of fat if their diet is poor and they do not exercise on a regular basis. As mentioned earlier, children and younger adults have a larger amount of brown fat, which burns more calories.

This is just one reason why children who stay active are less likely to develop diabetes, see a growing gut or suffer from the development of visceral fat.

It’s always good to start researching on how ways to get rid of cellulite and keep fat away.

How To Reduce Visceral Fat

It isn’t possible to simply target where you want to blast fat.

You can’t decide to target your butt or back or even how to lose belly fat or wherever during a specific workout (so if anyone in a workout video tries to tell you you’ll burn that leg or abdominal fat during a specific workout they are lying to you, because they don’t know your body type and you are not able to target burn fat).

Now, with that said, you will burn fat from the larger fat storage areas around the body.

If you are an apple shaped individual, you will burn fat from your stomach first simply because this is where most of your energy fat storage is located (although as you start to slim down you’ll begin to burn energy from other areas of the body, which is why it may appear as if you’re weight loss is slowing down).

Since you can’t target the fat cells, how should you go about combating visceral fat?

The one good thing about visceral fat is it doesn’t hold up against diet and exercise. With its close proximity to your organs, this is fat that is burned sooner rather than later. So, if you do have a gut and are worried about visceral fat build up, you can start dieting and exercising today and this will be a primary location where the fat energy cells are used.

If you are just starting to work out, focus on 30 minutes a day and build up from that (Harvard, 2015).

Ditch the Ab Workouts (For Now)

As we went over just a bit ago, you can’t target where you burn calories (despite what people trying to sell you gym equipment might say).

Sadly, far too many people fall into this trap.

They think you can fat target, so they work their abs because they want to drop stomach weight and cut the visceral fat. If you are technically considered overweight, you don’t need to focus on your abs just yet. Abdominal workouts burn very little in way of calories as your abdominal muscles are small. You’d be much better off focusing on the larger muscle groups of your body.

These areas will burn more calories and help you burn more fat, including the visceral fatty tissue.

Weight training is especially helpful as, when you weight train, you’ll continue to burn calories even after you’re done working out because your muscles will need to repair the damaged tissue, which takes energy.

How Your Diet Affects Visceral Fat

Diet makes up most of your battle against visceral fat.

Portion control is a key element.

Prepare your food at home and understand what a portion is. Often times, a single portion is significantly smaller than what you’re eating, so you may be consuming three or four times the amount of calories, if you don’t know the exact portion size.

In terms of food, focus on complex carbs (such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables) and lean protein (such as fish, turkey, and chicken). Cut out the simple carbs, which comes from sugar and refined grains. Simple sugars can turn to fat and you need to avoid this. Cut out anything processed and stick with all natural.

If you need help, you can follow a specific diet plan to help you get on track. Just remember, diet and exercise are both key factors in dropping the weight and ridding your body of visceral fat.

It can be difficult at first, but as long as you stick with your diet plan and exercise, in some shape or form, every day, you’ll start to see the results and you’ll help cut the dangerous visceral fat out of your body (Daily Mail, 2010).

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Fat can be found throughout the human body. The body stores fat cells as needed for energy. While fat can be found anywhere, visceral fat is stored within the abdominal cavity. This puts it in direct connection with a large number of the body’s organs.

Due to its close proximity to so many organs, this active fat can often lead to a host of medical conditions, including Types 2 diabetes. While everyone stores fat a bit differently from the next person, it is important to do what you can, live a healthy, active lifestyle and avoid the build up and development of this visceral fat.

Doing so goes a long way in reducing your chances of developing serious medical conditions. 

-Terry Asher

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Terry Asher

Owner & Founder at Gym Junkies LLC
After changing his best friend’s life by helping him lose over 70lbs, dropping him down to an amazing 7% body fat, Terry was inspired to be a full-time internet trainer knowing he could do the same for many more. In 2010, Terry published his own diet and fitness e-book that can be purchased on this website. Let Terry help you change your body for the better!
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