What is Visceral Fat and How Do I Get Rid Of It?

visceral fat in the belly area
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Visceral fat is adipose tissue (fat tissue) that surrounds your vital organs. Visceral adipose tissue is located deep inside your body and is sometimes referred to as belly fat. If you have too much visceral fat, you may be at higher risk for certain health conditions and diseases.

The Definition of Visceral

Since visceral fat is often called belly fat, you might wonder why we use the term "visceral" to describe it.

The reason is that there are two different kinds of fat in your belly and visceral fat is only one of them. 

In a health setting, the word visceral means in or near your vital organs (your viscera). These are the organs deep in your gut, like your stomach and your intestines. Visceral muscles are found in the walls of your visceral organs. Visceral fat surrounds those organs. Since your vital organs are located in your midsection, visceral fat accumulates in the area around your belly.

But not all belly fat is visceral fat. There is another kind of fat called subcutaneous fat. Subcutaneous fat is located underneath the skin. This kind of fat is located all over your body and is important for your body to function properly.  

 

Health Risks Associated With Visceral Obesity

If you have too much visceral fat, you have a condition called visceral obesity. Doctors sometimes call this condition visceral adiposity.

While too much of any kind of fat can be dangerous, there are certain health risks associated with having too much visceral fat. 

Patients with visceral obesity are at higher risks for several conditions, including:

    How to Measure Visceral Fat

    In some health club or educational settings, a clinician might estimate your visceral fat by taking a waist measurement. Your belly measurement can provide insight into the amount of fat that you are carrying around your vital organs. You can also measure your own belly fat at home.

    To get the best measurement, use a flexible tape measure. Wrap it around the widest part of your stomach, across your belly button. The tape measure should rest gently on your skin; not so loose that it falls away and not so tight that it digs into your skin. Once the tape measure is positioned correctly, breathe in and then take the measurement on the exhale.

    Men and women have different numbers that may indicate visceral adiposity.

    • Men: A waist measurement greater than 40 inches
    • Women: A waist measurement greater than 35 inches

    If your waistline indicates a higher risk for visceral adiposity, talk to your doctor. Your health care team can do more extensive diagnostic tests to accurately measure your visceral fat so that you are able to better predict your risk for disease.

    How to Lose Visceral Fat

    It's not uncommon to have belly fat that you want to lose. Whether the fat around your midsection is visceral fat or subcutaneous fat, your plan will be the same. To lose fat, you need to increase your daily activity and reduce your food intake. You might see pills and supplements advertised online that claim to reduce belly fat, but most of those products don't work - and some can even be dangerous.

    If you're concerned about belly fat, talk to your doctor. He or she can explain how visceral fat affects your specific risk for disease. Knowing these facts about your health might help you to make the changes necessary to reduce your visceral fat, reach a safer weight and keep a trim midsection.

    Sources:

    Assessing Your Weight. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed: October 22, 2015. http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/

    American Council on Exercise. ACE Health Coach Manual 2013.

    American Council on Exercise. ACE Personal Trainer Manual 2012.

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