Some know visceral adiposity as a purely aesthetic problem – or the so-called pancetta – but in reality, with this term, we mean a type of fat that is deposited between the internal organs of the abdominal cavity, the intestine, the stomach and the liver, and which in some cases can be harmful to health. Excess fat should not be underestimated as it is a significant risk factor for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance and hypertension. To reduce visceral fat, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is essential.
Visceral Fat: What Is It?
There are two types of body fat: brown fat and white fat. White fat is further broken down into subcutaneous, visceral, and ectopic fat. Visceral fat – the fat that surrounds the internal organs – accumulates when too many calories are consumed, and little physical activity is done. Unlike subcutaneous fat, which is found on the surface, visceral fat is located deep around the central organs of the body, such as the liver, intestines and heart.
Visceral Fat: Is It Dangerous For The Heart?
Visceral fat is needed to store excess energy, but it also produces hormones and inflammatory substances. Over time, these hormones can play a role in the presence of long-lasting inflammation, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Long-lasting inflammation should never be underestimated, as it could be an essential risk factor for heart disease, namely the formation of plaques inside the arteries.
These plaques are made up of cholesterol and other substances. They grow over time and can rupture, wholly or partially blocking blood flow. If this happens in the coronary arteries, the most severe consequence is that the heart is left without oxygen, which could cause a heart attack. In the small-caliber arteries, a reduced or total absence of perfusion could occur with consequent suffering of the underlying organs and tissues.
How Is Visceral Fat Measured?
Visceral fat is measured by analyzing the circumference of the waist. The abdominal circumference values considered medium cardiometabolic risk are those greater than 94 cm in men and 80 cm in women. The high risk starts from values above 102 in men and 88 in women.
There are other methods to monitor the amount of abdominal fat, such as the waist-to-hip ratio, which consists of dividing the cm of the waist by those of the hips, and the BMI, or body mass index, a measurement system given by the result of the ratio between body weight in kilograms and the square of height in meters. Usually, a BMI between 25 and 30 indicates being overweight. A BMI of 30 or higher indicates a condition of obesity and, consequently, the presence of visceral fat.
Visceral Fat: When To Consult A Specialist
Cardiovascular risk becomes relevant when visceral fat levels reach the mid-and high-risk threshold values. A lot of visceral fat can indicate markers of metabolic and cardiovascular diseases, such as insulin resistance, inflammation, hypertension, an increase in cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL and VLDL values, atheromatous plaque formation, and coronary calcification.
Furthermore, the continuous release of fatty acids into the portal circulation determines a condition of hepatic steatosis due to an increase in the biosynthesis of lipids, and consequently, the risk of hyperlipidemia, insulin resistance, hypertension and atherosclerosis increases. Preventing obesity and visceral adiposity complications is essential, so it is advisable to consult a specialist if the threshold values are reached.
How To Reduce Visceral Fat?
A healthy lifestyle can be adopted to reduce visceral fat. Quitting smoking, eating a balanced diet, getting regular exercise, getting enough sleep, and trying to reduce stress and alcohol consumption are all important things to do in this regard.
Visceral Fat: The Role Of Nutrition
Nutrition is essential to prevent, counter and reduce visceral fat. The susceptibility to developing obesity and other diseases such as diabetes mellitus and metabolic syndrome may depend even before birth since the mother’s nutritional status affects the programming of the cells that will give rise to the adipocytes in the child. Nutrition and physical activity go hand in hand to improve the metabolic status and insulin sensitivity.
It is essential to maintain a diet rich in fiber, which is a vital component of vegetable origin based on fresh products, rich in nutrients and reduced caloric density. It starts with fruit and vegetables, preferably in season, whole grains, and vegetable proteins, without forgetting good hydration and polyunsaturated fats of olive oil. A diet based on fatty foods, fried foods, alcohol, processed meats, sugary drinks and refined products is instead associated with high visceral fat levels because it is low in nutrients and calories.