The Most Dangerous Fat Is The Easiest To Lose
Its every weight loss enthusiasts dream to zap belly fat but, far from pure vanity, theres actually a reason why having a lot of fat in the abdominal region can be dangerous, especially visceral fat. Fat is stored all over our body, but how does an expanding waistline grow your risk for chronic illness?
The Different Types Of Belly Fat
Not all fat is created equal. Excess timber around the waist hurts your health in a way that subcutaneous fat the soft layer of chub that sits directly under the skin doesnt. Belly fat is stored in your abdominal cavity, and shares space with important organs like the liver, stomach, kidneys and intestines.
Belly fat is metabolically active, which means its basically an organ in itself but not one youd want to donate.
It excels at pumping out various inflammatory substances, interfering with hormones that regulate appetite, weight, mood and brain function and sending your cortisol levels responsible for stress through the roof. No surprise then, that its associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancer.
So far, so tragic. There is, however, some good news. Belly fat may be the most dangerous type of body fat, but since its buried deep within your body, its also the easiest to get rid of. But before we talk about that, its worth identifying the causes of belly fat. After all, its far better to not put the weight on in the first place.
You’ve Got Too Much Of The Wrong Gut Bacteria
Most of the bacteria that dwell in your gut are pretty useful. They produce hormones, regulate your immune system, digest food, extract nutrients, control your mood, manage your appetite and much more besides.
Now, two groups of beneficial bacteria are dominant in the human gut, the bacteroidetes and the firmicutes. However, the number of bacteroidetes is decreased in obese people when compared with lean people, according to research.
In another study, scientists took stool samples from 1300 twins and found that the less diverse your gut bacteria, the more likely you are to have belly fat. Grow your gut community to shed serious timber.
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What Causes Visceral Fat
Fat gets stored when you consume too many calories and have too little physical activity. Some people tend to store fat around their belly rather than on the hips because of their genes.
In women, getting older can change where the body stores fat. Especially after menopause, womens muscle mass gets less and their fat increases. As women age, they are more likely to develop more visceral fat in the belly, even if they do not put on weight.
In men, age and genetics also play a role in developing visceral fat. Drinking alcohol can also lead to more belly fat in men.
Belly Fat: Why It’s So Dangerous And How To Lose It
You may have resolved to lose some of that belly fat because you think it looks unattractive.
The better reason is that such fat, known as visceral fat, is seriously unhealthy.
“The issue is health, not cosmetics,” says Dr. Garth Davis, a bariatric surgeon at Houston Methodist. “The presence of visceral fat is a good predictor of the development of chronic metabolic disease, whether it’s hypertension, heart disease or diabetes.”
It’s impossible to target belly fat when you start a program to slim down. But a reduction in weight will shrink your waistline and, most importantly, help reduce visceral fat, which lies underneath the abdominal wall in organs and in the lining around the intestines.
How do you know if you have visceral fat, why is it so dangerous and what can you do about it? Dr. Davis is here to answer those questions and more.
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Is All Fat Bad For You
We know that a certain amount of fat is important for insulation and metabolism. Being underweight can carry serious health risks of its own. Fat plays an important role in the body and it is essential to have some of it.
Subcutaneous fat, or the fat under our skin that we can pinch, produces some beneficial molecules, including:
- the hormone Leptin that acts on the brain to suppress appetite and burn stored fat.
- the hormone Adiponectin which helps protect against diabetes by regulating fat and sugar processing and even has an anti-inflammatory effect on blood vessel linings.
- after menopause the fatty tissue is one of the main sources of Oestrogen.
So you can see that the fat cell is really a hormonal or endocrine organ part of our hormonal system that can have an effect on all of the body.
However, not all fat works the same in the body. This is one place where location, location, location can be paramount. Increasing research shows that the roles of fat in different areas of the body can be quite variable.
Increasing research shows that the roles of fat in different areas of the body can be quite variable.
We think about 90 per cent of our fat is subcutaneous and the remaining 10 per cent is visceral or inside the abdomen. It stands to reason if you are carrying excess fat it is likely you are carrying excess visceral fat.
Taking Aim At Belly Fat
Unlike fat parked on the hips and thighs, fat around the middle produces substances that can create serious health risks.
No matter what your body shape, excess fat isn’t good for your health. But saddlebags and ballooning bellies are not equivalent. When it comes to body fat, location counts, and each year brings new evidence that the fat lying deep within the abdomen is more perilous than the fat you can pinch with your fingers.
In most people, about 90% of body fat is subcutaneous, the kind that lies in a layer just beneath the skin. If you poke your belly, the fat that feels soft is subcutaneous fat. The remaining 10% called visceral or intra-abdominal fat lies out of reach, beneath the firm abdominal wall. It’s found in the spaces surrounding the liver, intestines, and other organs. It’s also stored in the omentum, an apron-like flap of tissue that lies under the belly muscles and blankets the intestines. The omentum gets harder and thicker as it fills with fat.
Although visceral fat makes up only a small proportion of body fat, it’s a key player in a variety of health problems.
As women go through their middle years, their proportion of fat to body weight tends to increase more than it does in men and fat storage begins favoring the upper body over the hips and thighs. Even if you don’t actually gain weight, your waistline can grow by inches as visceral fat pushes out against the abdominal wall.
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Cut Back On Carbs Especially Refined Carbs
Reducing your carb intake can be very beneficial for losing fat, including abdominal fat.
Diets with under 50 grams of carbs per day cause belly fat loss in people who are overweight, those at risk for type 2 diabetes, and women with polycystic ovary syndrome .
You dont have to follow a strict low carb diet. Some research suggests that simply replacing refined carbs with unprocessed starchy carbs may improve metabolic health and reduce belly fat .
In the famous Framingham Heart Study, people with the highest consumption of whole grains were 17% less likely to have excess abdominal fat than those who consumed diets high in refined grains .
A high intake of refined carbs is associated with excessive belly fat. Consider reducing your carb intake or replacing refined carbs in your diet with healthy carb sources, such as whole grains, legumes, or vegetables.
Including Physical Activity To Reduce Belly Fat
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How Do I Know If My Belly Fat Is A Problem
An easy way to assess if there may be a problem is to measure your waist. Experts suggest that for women a waist measurement more than 80cm and for men more than 94cm suggests there may be an issue. These guidelines are adjusted for ethnicity with South Asian, Chinese and Japanese men recommended to have a waist circumference no more than 90cm. If your measurements exceed these guidelines and you are concerned, refer to your GP for further guidance.
How Do I Know If I Have Visceral Fat
The best way to tell if you have visceral fat is to measure your waist. The waist circumference is a good indicator of how much fat is deep inside the belly, around the organs. For women, your risk of chronic disease is increased if the waist circumference is 80 cm or more and for men 94cm or more. These measurements dont apply to children or pregnant women. If you think your waist measurement may be too large, talk to your doctor.
Measuring the Body Mass Index may also tell whether you are carrying too much fat.
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Thin People Have It Too
Even if you’re thin, you can still have too much visceral fat.
How much you have is partly about your genes, and partly about your lifestyle, especially how active you are.
Visceral fat likes inactivity. In one study, thin people who watched their diets but didn’t exercise were more likely to have too much visceral fat.
The key is to be active, no matter what size you are.
Exercise And Strengthtraining: A One
Exercises that increase the heart rate and make you sweat help you lose weight in general both visceral fat and the subcutaneous fat under the skin. Aerobic exercise burns overall calories and helps you reduce total body fat.
Dr. Butsch says the key to losing abdominal visceral fat seems to lie in a combination approach. He suggests trying 20 minutes of whole-body strength training plus a cardio routine to strengthen muscle cells and increase fat burn.
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How Do You Lose Visceral Fat
Visceral fat is literally inside your body and surrounds your internal organs. Subcutaneous fat on the other hand is the kind of fat that is right under your skin and doesnt pose as much of a health risk.
If your belly pops out then theres a good chance you have visceral stomach fat. You might also have subcutaneous fat too but theres also a lot of deep ab fat.
If you dont drop it fast having visceral fat inside your body can lead to some serious health problems .
Visceral fat unlike subcutaneous fat causes inflammation throughout your body which can lead to an increased risk of chronic diseases.
Chronic inflammation wears your body and organs down to the point things start breaking.
An example of long-lasting inflammation is the development of plaque in your arteries leading to heart disease.
This happens from visceral fat releasing inflammatory markers and free fatty acids. These can travel to your portal veins which can lead to your liver causing more damage to your intestines, pancreas and spleen.
This also may cause fat to build up in your liver leading to insulin resistance as well as type II diabetes.
How do you know if you have visceral fat and not just subcutaneous fat?
If looks like you have half a turtle shell on your stomach then then chances are good you have visceral ab fat.
Grab a tape measure to measure the fat around your waist. You most likely have excess visceral fat if the tape measure reads:
Focus On The Way Your Clothes Fit More Than Reading A Scale
As you add muscle mass and lose fat, the reading on your bathroom scale maynot change much, but your pants will be looser. Thats a better mark ofprogress. Measured around, your waistline should be less than 35 inches ifyoure a woman or less than 40 inches if youre a man to reduce heart anddiabetes risks.
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Prioritize Getting Good Sleep
Just as a bad nights sleep can ruin your whole day, a track record of bad sleep can mess with a lot of other aspects of your lifeand one of those might just be belly fat.
A study in Sleep found routinely logging less than five hours of sleep a night to be associated with a significant increase in both visceral and subcutaneous fat accumulation among adults younger than 40Hairston KG, Bryer-Ash M, Norris JM, Haffner S, Bowden DW, Wagenknecht LE. Sleep duration and five-year abdominal fat accumulation in a minority cohort: the IRAS family study. Sleep. 2010 33:289-295. .
Poor sleep has been linked to the accumulation of body fat, as well as insulin resistance, says Dr. Kroll. Better sleep hygiene and stress reduction can help with fat loss.
Have trouble getting consistent sleep? Check out these expert sleep tips from the Forbes Health Advisory Board.
How You Can Combat Belly Fat
First things first: Everyone is somewhat genetically predisposed to store fat differently. Hormones play a role, too, notes Dr. Davis, which is why you see men carrying their weight around the middle and women carrying it around their hips and thighs.
Also, there are no weight-loss pills that target belly fat, and bariatric surgery is only for the morbidly obese: those with BMIs of at least 40.
But the good news, according to Davis, is that visceral fat is not that hard to lose. It just requires work.
Here’s what you can do:
“We are hardwired to eat,” says Dr. Davis. That’s why, in the end, the mainstay for people to lose belly fat are lifestyle changes, eating a healthier diet, becoming more active. It can be done.”
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Do More Aerobic Exercise
Regular aerobic exercise is a great way to shed visceral fat.
Its commonly known as cardio, and it burns a lot of calories.
In fact, many studies have shown that aerobic exercise can help you lose visceral fat, even without dieting .
For example, an analysis of 15 studies in 852 people compared how well different types of exercise reduced visceral fat without dieting.
They found that moderate and high-intensity aerobic exercises were most effective at reducing visceral fat without dieting .
That said, combining regular aerobic exercise with a healthy diet is more effective at targeting visceral fat than doing either one alone.
If you want to get started with aerobic exercise, start with brisk walking, jogging or running at least two to three times per week.
Aerobic exercise is especially effective at reducing visceral fat. Try combining it with a healthy diet to shed more visceral fat.
How Much Belly Fat Do You Have
The most precise way to determine how much visceral fat you have is to get a CT scan or MRI. But there’s a much simpler, low-cost way to check.
Get a measuring tape, wrap it around your waist at your belly button, and check your girth. Do it while you’re standing up, and make sure the tape measure is level.
For your health’s sake, you want your waist size to be less than 35 inches if you’re a woman and less than 40 inches if you’re a man.
Having a “pear shape” — bigger hips and thighs — is considered safer than an “apple shape,” which describes a wider waistline.
What were really pointing to with the apple versus pear, Hairston says, “is that, if you have more abdominal fat, its probably an indicator that you have more visceral fat.”
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You’re Eating Trans Fats
If antioxidants are the good guys of gut health, trans fats are the super-villains. These sneaky fats actively contribute to your growing waist line not just by adding new fat, but by moving fat from other areas of your body to your belly. During a six-year study at Wake Forest University, monkeys that were fed an 8 per cent trans-fat diet had 33 per cent more belly fat than monkeys that were fed an 8 per cent monounsaturated fat diet.
There are currently no legal requirements for food manufacturers to label trans fats, according to the British Dietetic Association, so you need to check ingredients lists for hydrogenated fats and hydrogenated vegetable oils. The biggest culprits? Your cheat day favourites: cakes, biscuits, ice cream, popcorn, pies, fried food, fast food and takeaways.