Keeping tabs on body fat has become easier now with advancements in body composition scales and portable devices. Monitoring body fat is a better indicator of health than body weight. Excess body fat can increase the risk of getting type 2 diabetes, heart diseases, stroke, hypertension, and other debilitating ailments. The distribution of fat stores in our body determines how fat or thin we look and how healthy or unhealthy we are.
The fat storage
Fat in our body is stored mostly in two forms given below.
1. Subcutaneous fat (fat present under the skin) in the
- Abdomen region (around the waist)
- Lower body (hips and thighs)
2. Visceral fat
- Surrounding internal organs such as the liver, stomach, intestines in the abdominal cavity (around the waist)
While subcutaneous fat (the flabby fat you can see) is responsible for making you look fat, excess visceral fat is the hidden, unseen villain which makes you unhealthy. Although visceral fat comprises only a small proportion of the total fat mass, this fat creates major risks to health than any other type of fat present in the body.
Why is visceral fat bad for you?
Visceral fat can increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, stroke, Alzheimer’s diseases, and even some cancers.
Excess visceral fat can cause harm by
- Releasing hormones and chemicals that trigger inflammation.
- Secreting more fatty acids in the bloodstream which causes organ dysfunction.
- Impairing insulin sensitivity.
- Raising the level of LDL or “bad” cholesterol
- Raising blood pressure.
Do not be fooled by the appearance
A lean, seemingly fit looking individual can have excess visceral fat and be equally exposed to health risks as an obese person. In fact, lean individuals are said to be at a higher risk as they do not show any signs of fat accumulation and an increase in waist size usually goes unnoticed.
How much is too much?
Appearance – A quick look in the mirror can tell you if you have more fat deposition in the lower region (thighs, hips) of your body or the upper region around the belly or midsection (abdomen). Carrying fat in the lower region does not hold many health risks. A protruding belly, on the other hand, is a sign of excess visceral fat accumulation.
Waist circumference– The easiest way to know if you have visceral fat is to measure your waist size. Measuring waist circumference around the midsection or the abdomen area gives a rough estimate of your visceral fat accumulation.
Excess visceral fat accumulation is said to be present if
- Men have a waist circumference greater than 90 cms, and
- Women have a waist circumference greater than 80 cms.
What drives excess visceral fat accumulation?
However, genes play a crucial role in determining the storage and distribution of fats, the key player is the surplus of energy intake. When there is an excess energy intake especially in the form of glucose, the body converts it into fat. Fat gets stored in the subcutaneous tissue and as visceral fat. When adipose cells lose their capacity to store this overload, fat accumulation occurs in locations where excess fat is not meant to be stored or processed i.e, in the visceral depots around the internal organs.
Visceral fat, like many other metabolic conditions, creeps in slowly, unseen and strikes without you being aware. Paying close attention to changes in your body can be a tiring task but can surely help you detect some early warning signssuch as a protruding belly. If you happen to notice any signs of excess visceral fat accumulation like an increase in your waistline, seek immediate medical advice. Moderate changes in your diet and exercise techniques can drive away your deeply hidden visceral fat and get rid of the flabby fat as well.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog, or any linked materials, are not intended & should not be construed as medical advice. Please consult a certified healthcare professional in case of a medical concern.