The Invisible Visceral Fats, Its Danger and Getting Rid of It

The Invisible Visceral Fats, Its Danger and Getting Rid of It

What Is Visceral Fat?

Visceral fat is a derivative of fat that is lodged deep inside the belly and swaddled around the abdominal organs. Interestingly, you might have the appearance of a flat tummy but still have visceral fat. This condition is dubbed as ‘thin outside fat inside’ or TOFI. It’s only through a scan at the doctor’s that you can measure your belly fat, but your doctor wouldn’t test it on a whim.

Dangers of Visceral Fat

Having excess body fat comes with health risks, but the visceral kind is more concerning as its associated with the risk of serious medical issues. These include heart disease, Alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and high cholesterol. According to researchers, they indicate that visceral fat triggers some protein to inflame the body’s tissues and organs as well as narrow blood vessels. When this happens, your blood pressure will spike and cause other problems.

How to Measure It

There’s no exact method to measure and determine how much visceral fat lies deep in your abdominal region without expensive imaging tests. And the chances that you need these tests are slim to none.

Waist size

The easiest way to get an approximation is to measure your waist size. Take a measuring tape and wrap it around the circumference of your waist, over your belly button. Remember not to suck in your stomach or it defeats the purpose of the measurement. For women, having a waistline of 35 inches or more is a sign of visceral fat, while in men, it’s 40 inches and more.  In men, it’s 40 inches. However, the benchmark for visceral for Asians varies and drops to 31.5 inches for women and 35.5 inches for men.


Another method of rough measurement is through calculating your body mass index. It’s pretty simple, you no longer have to do the maths yourself with the advent of online calculators. The general rule is that if you have a BMI of 30 or higher, you’re overweight and it could be a sign of visceral fat. Asian Americans with a BMI of 23 or higher is a cause for concern.

Hip-to-waist ratio

This is no definitive proof but some doctors believe that dividing your waist size by your hip size gives a good idea of your risk for visceral fat. Studies however, measuring visceral fat goes beyond a simple waist measurement.

Body shape

“Mirror mirror on the wall” — look into the mirror and your body shape will tell you where it stores fat. If your body takes shape like an apple — a big trunk and slimmer legs, it often suggests more visceral fat. The apple proportions are more common among men while women embody a pear shape — with wider hips and thighs. Studies reveal that upper body fat carries more health risks, which could be one of the reasons why women typically outlive men.

Imaging tests

Imaging tests can burn a hole in the pocket, but it’s the only way to check the precise amount of visceral fat your body holds. While most doctors won’t typically order a CT scan or an MRI test just to check for visceral fat, they might get a detailed picture when checking for another medical condition.

How to get rid of it

Try a Low-Carb Diet

Low-carb diets together with exercising are the most effective means of reducing visceral fat. Compared to low-fat diets, various research reveals  low-carb diets are more effective. In an 8-week study including 69 overweight men and women, scientists found that people who followed a low-carb diet lost 10% more visceral fat and 4.4% more total fat than those on a low-fat diet. An example of a low-carb diet is the popularly-practised ketogenic diet. This diet drastically reduces carb intake and replaces it with fat which places your body in a state named ketosis. Scientifically speaking, a study on 28 overweight and obese adults exhibited that participants who followed the keto diet had shed relatively more fat, especially visceral fat, than those on a low-fat diet. Interestingly, this was achieved by consuming approximately 300 more calories per day.

Perform Aerobic Exercise Regularly

Cardiovascular conditioning or regular aerobic exercise is a great way to burn calories, along with visceral fat. In fact, studies show that even without dieting, one can lose visceral fat  through aerobic exercises such as running, cycling or swimming. Evident in an analysis of 15 studies on 852 people that studied the relationship between various exercises and reduced visceral fat without dieting, results showed that moderate and high-intensity aerobic exercises were most effective. To reap the best results in reducing visceral fat, combine regular aerobic exercise with a healthy diet. Walk before you leap so start with brisk walking, jogging or running at least two to three times per week.

Consume More Soluble Fibre

Fibre is found inherently in vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, beans and nuts. It can be fractionated into two broad categories — soluble and insoluble. The former dissolves in water to form a gel-like substance. Besides transporting digested food from the stomach to intestines, fibre slows digestion. When soluble fibre makes its way to the colon, the gut bacteria ferments and converts it into short-chain fatty acids, which are sources of nutrition  for colon cells. Soluble fibre also creates fullness and aids in visceral fat reduction. Studies have shown that short-chain fatty acids do indeed increase levels of fullness hormones, such as cholecystokinin, GLP-1 and PYY and reduce levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin.

Load Up on Protein

Protein is an important part of a healthy diet and for fat loss. Adding more protein in your diet increases the fullness hormone GLP-1, PYY and cholecystokinin which keeps you satiated longer while also reducing the hunger hormone ghrelin. Studies substantiate that protein boosts your metabolism which triggers the domino effect of weight loss and visceral fat loss. Additionally, a research on 23,876 adults indicated that an increased protein intake was associated with lowered body mass index, higher “good” HDL cholesterol and smaller waist circumference. A great way to increase protein consumption is to add it into every meal and keep it varied to include meat, fish, eggs, dairy, legumes or whey protein.

Reduce or Limit Added Sugar Intake

While consuming added sugar can please the palate, it increases one’s risk to various diseases including heart problems, obesity and high blood pressure. It does not provide any nutritional value and leads to weight gain. In fact, results of some studies indicate that eating more added sugar leads to more visceral fat. Added sugar comprises approximately 50% fructose — a monosaccharide metabolised by the liver. When consumed in large amounts, fructose is converted into fat instead, by the liver. This means that there’s an increased risk of visceral fat storage. For instance, in a study with 41 children aged 9 to 18, researchers switched out fructose in their diets with starch that carried an equivalent number of calories. This simple interchange reduced the children’s liver fat by 3.4% and visceral fat by 10.6% in just 10 days. How do you reduce your added sugar intake you ask? It’s pretty simple — eat more whole foods including fresh vegetables, fruits, lean meats and fish.

Limit Alcohol Consumption

Everything in moderation, like drinking a minimal amount of alcohol, especially red wine, can be beneficial. However, going overboard with the consumption of alcohol can be detrimental to your health, especially through the formation of visceral fat. A study on 8,603 Korean adults revealed that the subjects who drank the most alcohol had the largest waist circumference — an indication of visceral fat. The results were similar in another study on 87 women. That said, there are only a few studies that investigated the correlation between alcohol intake and visceral fat.

Steer Clear From Trans Fat

Trans fats are bad and a big no-no for your body — it’s something that all health professionals agree on. Trans fat are bad because it’s man-made, artificial fat created by melding hydrogen into vegetable oils, to have a longer shelf life. Examples of processed food include potato chips, frozen pizza and baked goods. Studies correlate with experts' opinion that it can increase visceral health and cause numerous health problems. Case in point is a six-year study on monkeys that were fed food rich in artificial trans fats or monounsaturated fats. The monkeys on a trans fat diet exhibited 33% more visceral fat, despite consuming a similar number of calories. Seeing the harmful effects of trans fat, the US Food and Drug Administration mandated that food manufacturers were given three years from 2015 to either gradually remove trans fats from food products or apply for special approval.

Get Sufficient Sleep

It has been ascertained that a good night’s rest can do wonders for your health. However, many people around the world are not getting sufficient sleep that the body requires and this slippery slope may lead to visceral fat gain. By increasing the duration of sleep, it may help reduce visceral fat as a result. This fact was evident in a six-year study on 239 people which indicated that increasing sleep from six hours or less to seven or 8 hours decreased visceral fat by a whopping 26%. In other studies, having sleep apnea (sleep-related breathing disorder) is also linked to a higher risk of gaining visceral fat. It’s best to consult with a professional if you think you’re experiencing sleep apnea or other sleeping disorders.

Keep Stress at Bay

Stress and anxiety are unfortunately part and parcel of this adventure called life. It affects many and switches the adrenal glands into producing cortisol (stress hormone) in overdrive. According to research, excess cortisol tends to increase visceral fat storage. Besides that, most of us tend to turn to food for comfort when stressed, which leads to overeating and worsens the situation. In order to reduce visceral fat, you must first address the root cause and consider employing strategies to relieve stress which includes exercising more, trying yoga or meditation, being more mindful or spending time with friends and family.

Add Probiotic to Your Diet

Found in yoghurt and other fermented food like kefir, sauerkraut and nato, probiotics are live bacteria that can aid digestion and boost gut health and digestive health. Studies have put forward that certain probiotics can reduce dietary fat absorption in the gut and therefore help you lose weight and visceral fat. By consuming probiotics, it can help you feel full longer, thanks to a hormone named GLP-1 and ANGPTL4 — a protein that may help reduce fat storage. In addition, further research has indicated that probiotic bacteria from the Lactobacillus family, such as Lactobacillus fermentum, Lactobacillus amylovorus and especially Lactobacillus gasseri can also contribute in losing visceral fat.