What is Visceral Fat?

Visceral Fat is the type of fat that is specifically stored within your abdomen wall. This fat is typical in the “beer belly” look. This means that the belly looks more like it’s protruding out rather than having the “flab” on the outside of the abdominal muscles. This type of fat is known as subcutaneous fat.

Subcutaneous fat has its own issues in excess, but they are quite different from visceral fat. The danger with thi specific type of fat is that it stores around your organs. Itis natural to have fat here as a cushion. However, if not kept in moderation, it can become hazardous to your health.

Visceral fat gets stored under what is known as the omentum, which is the thin wall of your abdominal muscle. This wall gets harder and thicker with fat, which is why beer bellies always look so tight and hard.

Visceral Fat causes the infamous "beer belly"

Why Visceral Fat is so Unhealthy

As I just said, you are supposed to have some level of visceral fat. Too much becomes a severe health risk for a number of reasons.

Disease can develop whenever conditions inside the body are not kept naturally. With modern conveniences like fast food and grocery stores everywhere, these natural levels can be difficult to maintain.

We can just stop by any fast food restaurant and purchase a cheap, but insanely unhealthy meal with ease. This makes it harder to keep our body in a natural shape, because until recent human history these options did not exist.

Our bodies are naturally made to hold onto fat. This comes from thousands upon thousand of years of scarcity, when our bodies were not sure when our next meal would be. If we were able to get a hearty meal one day, it may be awhile until we are able to feast again. Because of this, our bodies have been trained through evolution to hold onto fat and other nutrients.

Since we no longer have to run and chase down food, this becomes an issue. Our body still holds on to this fat even though we are not burning it off by running through plains and forests to search for food.

Risk of Disease

There are risks of certain diseases developing with high levels of visceral fat. The body is not kept at a natural ratio of visceral fat compared to subcutaneous. Furthermore, it is common for us to have too high a level of both types of fat to begin with.

Research has found that there is one major difference between subcutaneous and visceral fat in relation to health. While both are necessary for health, subcutaneous fight produces a high proportion of benefits, such as beneficial molecules and enzymes. Meanwhile, visceral fat has been shown to skew certain protein and hormonal levels negatively.

An example of benefits of subcutaneous fat is in its production of leptin. Leptin is produced by our fat cells when our bodies recognize that we have enough fat to maintain our energy levels. This creates a natural buffer that tries to stop us from overeating because our bodies try to tell us that we have enough fat to survive.

Visceral fat on the other hand…

Well, let’s look at some specific diseases.

Type 2 Diabetes

Visceral Fat can affect Type 2 Diabetes by affecting how our body responds to insulin, called insulin resistance. Research has shown that this fat can release a protein called Retinol Binding Protein 4, which directly causes your body to resist insulin.

Insulin is created by your pancreas for the purpose of allowing your cells to absorb and properly use glucose. So, as your blood sugar increases, your body has to work increasingly hard to create and release insulin to help absorb this sugar. If your blood sugar levels are elevated, but not to the point of actual type 2 diabetes, this is known as prediabetes.

You pancreas hits a certain point of being overworked by trying to keep up, and begins to not produce near enough insulin to remove this blood sugar, causing diabetes.

So, since visceral fat creates a protein which affects your body’s ability to use insulin, it can begin the process of developing type 2 diabetes.

Visceral fat can increase the risk of heart disease

Heart Disease

According to a study conducted in the Journal of the American Heart association, waist-hip ratio is one of the strongest indicators of heart health and diabetes risk.

According to the George Richards Minot Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Kahn; “There are many studies showing that an unfavorable waist-to-hip ratio is highly associated with diabetes and cardiovascular risk.”

The study concluded that women with a larger midsection had 10% – 20% greater risk of heart attack than women that were just larger overall.

Visceral vs. subcutaneous fat!

I will explain more about this process in one moment, because this process ties together all of the health risks caused by visceral fat!


As I mentioned, visceral fat secretes certain substances that are harmful to the body. Some of these can lead to inflammation, which can cause health issues to develop or worsen.

A reason that visceral fat is thought to cause inflammation, is due to the fact it is so close to your organs. This is known as the portal theory. Simply put, it’s the idea that since visceral fat is near the organs, and since visceral fat produces harmful hormones and proteins, it has a direct access point to your organs.

Your liver is the main victim, because it has been suggested that visceral fat can cause a buildup of plaque around your liver through what is called portal circulation. This can cause both of the previous risks I discussed, Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease.

The reason being that since these visceral fats and their metabolic waste go straight into this system, they are able to release free fatty acids into the liver, pancreas, heart, and other vital organs.

The free fatty acids then start to store within cells that are not designed to store this fat, causing organic failure and other serious health risks.

Stress Can Cause Visceral Fat to Develop

This is based on research that has been conducted, though no one is exactly sure why this happens.

Stress has been found to contribute to how your body stores fat. So becoming a more peaceful and grateful person could help in losing weight loss.

How Much Visceral Fat is Too Much?

According to a leading website on diabetes:

“A relatively good indicator of visceral fat is to take a waistline measurement. Harvard University note around 10% of our total fat is likely to be stored as visceral fat, therefore if you are carrying higher amounts of body fat than is recommended, it is therefore more likely that you are also storing more visceral fat than is healthy. “

So, if you’re overweight in general, or your BMI is high, there is a good chance that you have too much of this type of fat.

An MRI is the main way that doctors try to track this, but who has the money for that?

There are two ways to know without getting too complicated:

  • A visibly large belly
  • A large waist circumference

If you have either of these, there’s a good chance that your visceral fat levels are to high.

Diet and exercise are the best ways to get rid of this type of fat. Getting rid of Visceral fat will be another article in our future blog posts!

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