In order to maintain your body weight, the number of calories that you eat must equal the number of calories that you burn. However, with the increasing availability of cheap and fast unhealthy foods combined with an increasingly sedentary lifestyle propagated by the popularity of television, computers, and video games Americans are becoming overweight at a startling rate. Being overweight, and especially obese, places you at risk for a host of health problems ranging from diabetes to cancer to heart disease, and more. However, obesity alone doesn't tell the whole story. In fact, the exact location of the fat on your body has the greatest impact on your health and disease risk. And it doesn't look good!
The body stores fat in most areas of the body. The distribution of fat varies between men and women. Women tend to store excess fat in the buttocks and thighs hence the term "pear shaped". Men, on the other hand, store excess fat tissue in the abdomen these men are "apple shaped". This extra fat stored in the abdomen and specifically surrounding the internal organs is one of the reasons that men are at higher risk for heart disease than women. This type of fat is referred to as visceral fat. But how to reduce belly fat? It's coming, its coming!
Subcutaneous fat refers to the fat that is located near the skin surface. This fat is superficial away from the organs and has less impact on your health compared to the fat stored near the organs visceral fat. Visceral fat refers to fat surrounding the internal organs specifically the liver. This type of fat is difficult to lose and excess stores will exponentially increase your odds of chronic disease in the future.
Tummy Fat Risk Factors
There are many risk factors for the development of excess visceral fat and include:
- Male gender
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Tobacco user
- Heavy drinking (3 or more drinks per day for men, 2 or more drinks for women)
- Chronically high stress levels
- Poor diet, especially consisting of high total fat and saturated fat
Measurement of Visceral Fat
There are many different ways to measure the amount of visceral fat in your body and include CT scans, bioelectrical impedance, and circumference measurements. Each test has unique advantages and disadvantages' scans are the most accurate way to measure visceral fat. These scans can measure the amount of fat and the location of the fat in the abdomen. However, these scans are expensive and expose the patient and the vital organs to high doses of radiation. For these reasons, measurement of visceral fat by CT scans is limited to research purposes only.
Bioelectrical impedance uses a harmless electrical current that has the ability to differentiate fat tissue from muscle or organ tissue to measure visceral fat. This test is the most accurate way to measure visceral fat for the general public, although these units can cost up to $200 to $300.
Circumference measurements of the waist and hip to determine the waist-to-hip ratio are quick, easy, and inexpensive ways to measure visceral fat. These tests can be performed by anyone with only a tape measure and a calculator. The waist circumference is measured over the belly button and the hip circumference are measured across the largest protrusion of the buttocks. Then, the waist measurement is divided by the hip measurement. Visceral fat levels are considered excessive if they are 1.0 or higher in men and 0.85 or higher in women. For example, if a man measured his waist at 36 inches and his hips at 40 inches, his waist-to-hip ratio is 36/40, or 0.9 a healthy level of visceral fat.
Health Consequences of Excess Visceral Fat
Visceral fat releases fatty acids that are metabolized by the liver. Over time, this triggers insulin resistance in the liver, which is the one of the main culprits for the array of health problems associated with visceral fat. In addition, the liver releases excess cholesterol into the circulation that builds up on the artery walls and blocks blood flow to vital organs including the heart and brain.
How To Lose Visceral Fat
Visceral tummy fat is tougher to lose than subcutaneous fat because the body spares this fat to use for energy storage and to cushion the internal organs. The best ways to lose visceral fat are to eat a low-fat, low-calorie diet and to get regular exercise. Diet alone can help a little bit but, without exercise, it results in the loss of important muscle mass. Diets with a daily calorie intake that is 500 to 1000 calories less than the total calories burned will result in 1 to 2 pounds of fat loss every week. However, women should never eat fewer than 1200 calories a day and men never lower than 1500 calories to prevent muscle tissue from being burned for energy.
A successful eating plan will concentrate on whole foods and predominantly fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are rich in health supporting plant nutrients called phytonutrients . Other benefits of diet rich in plant foods are of course they are low calorie and high in fiber. Fruits and vegetables can also be juiced and deliver a healthy concentrated glass of the best liquid vitamins ever. If consuming a whole food diet, the need for vitamin supplements should be minimal. If supplements are desired choose concentrated whole food supplements such as additive-free aloe vera juice.