Visceral fat is the new monster in the closet and it’s not just overweight people who need to worry. Visceral fat can be an issue for anyone! Commonly known at ‘belly fat’ visceral fat is found in the abdominal cavity and wrapped around your internal organs. Visceral fat can quickly turn into a serious health problem, as it is associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, heart disease and even certain cancers. Learn more about it below and the steps you can take to minimise your risk!
First of all, allow me to differ visceral fat from subcutaneous fat. Subcutaneous fat is stored just below the skin. This is the fat which you can pinch just about anywhere on the body. Visceral fat rather, is more centralised around the abdominal area. While it’s difficult to judge how much visceral fat you have on your body, however a protruding belly or a large waist are two key signs. Visceral fat however may be an issue for a typically ‘skinny’ person, and should still be something that you should be aware of.
Visceral fat spells double-trouble throughout the body as it provokes inflammatory pathways while also singling molecules which have the ability to interfere with normal hormonal functions in the body.
One of the major causes of visceral fat is the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol is the hormone which takes fat from healthier areas like your butt and hips and moves it to your abdomen where there are more cortisol receptors. Throughout this process, your once healthy peripheral fat is turned into unhealthy visceral fat which increases inflammation and insulin resistance throughout the body.
This is why visceral fat is sometimes referred to as ‘active fat’. Research has shown that visceral fat plays a distinctive and potentially dangerous role affecting how our hormones function.
Fat cells are more than just excess energy stores. Fat cells also produce hormones. A vicious cycle is thus created as the fat around the abdomen leads to more cortisol being produced!
Over time, these hormones can increase the risk of chronic disease. An example of this is heart disease, sourced from long-lasting inflammation causing plaque to form inside the arteries of the body (a risk factor for heart disease).
A theory called ‘the portal theory’ is also used to help explain why visceral fat is so harmful. The theory suggests that inflammatory markers and free fatty acids released by the visceral fat travels through the portal vein to the liver. This portal vein carries blood from the intestines, pancreas and spleen to the liver. Possibly causing fat to build up in the liver, potentially leading to liver insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
Carrying excess visceral fat is linked with an increased risk for:
To prevent a dangerous level of fat build up, our bodies tell us when to eat and when we’re full using a range of chemicals. This chemical communication between the brain and the other organs (also known as the brain/body connection) is responsible for keeping us at a weight deemed ‘healthy’. Our blood sugar levels are at the core of our weight, appetite and mood control. These are controlled by the hormone named ‘insulin’, which balance the blood sugar levels. This is super important as blood insulin levels which remain high increase the likelihood that a person is able to accumulate excess body fat. While also communicating with other hormones such as cortisol, meaning that abnormally high levels and hormonal imbalances can result in powerful food cravings, mood instability and lack of energy.
When thinking about the prevention of visceral fat, the keys here are balancing blood sugar levels, and managing hormone levels.
Here are some tips!
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