Did you know our Bellies are S-L-O-W-L-Y killing us?
It’s a hidden Executioner called Visceral Fat.
Most people don’t know about it, most people don’t understand it and virtually everyone has it in varying amounts.
When we think about fat, we think about gross blubber as well as other disgusting things.
We imagine muffin tops, cellulite, bulging trousers and size XXXL t-shirts. And we think about how to get rid of visceral fat since nobody truly wants to be overweight and look like this.
Unfortunately, we actually have a much maligned view of body fat.
Mainly because most people have never had it explained to them and just what the real dangers are.
The first thing we all need to understand is……..not all fat is bad (I could almost hear the sigh of relief from here).
We actually need some good fats, like cold pressed extra virgin olive oil, in our diet to be healthy. For example, did you know that our brains are nearly 60% fat? So it has to be kept topped up.
More importantly, however, is that we tend to focus on subcutaneous fat; this is the fat we can see on the outside.
The most dangerous type of fat, and the one we should actually focus on if we want to get healthy is the one we can’t see……..visceral fat.
Let’s take a look at the different types of fat and what you can do to make sure you are healthy.
4 Body Fat Types
These are the four main types of fat you should know about.
1. Brown fat.
Found mainly in lean people and actually believed to be helpful in terms of burning off the bad kinds of fat, as it acts more like muscle.
2. White fat.
This type of fat designed to store energy and create a number of hormones we need in our bodies. However, too much white fat means too much energy is being stored and the hormone production necessary to deal with insulin starts to slow down.
3. Subcutaneous fat.
You will recognize this as the visible fat on the body.
4. Visceral fat.
This is the real bad boy of the bunch. It’s the fat that is slowly killing everyone. This fat actually wraps itself around your internal organs making it harder for them to function properly.
Dr Ron McCoy, Melbourne-based spokesperson for the Royal College of Australian GPs says, “The fat we can see on overweight people is subcutaneous fat.” But it’s the fat we can’t see that surrounds vital organs, called visceral fat, which could be a hidden killer. “Visceral fat is metabolised by the liver, which transforms it into cholesterol,” Dr McCoy explains. “Cholesterol circulates in the blood and can collect in your arteries, creating heart disease and high blood pressure.”
The Dangers of Visceral Fat
Most people who have high levels of visceral fat have what is known as a “beer belly” or an “apple shape” (this as opposed to a pear shape, when fat is stored more heavily on the thighs than on the belly).
These may be cute and funny little names, but their effects are anything but. We know that visceral fat builds up insulin resistance, which in turn leads to type 2 diabetes.
Some professionals are now describing visceral fat as being almost like an organ, which acts solely to release hormones and develop insulin resistance.
Additionally, we know that those people with high levels of visceral fat have a less healthy metabolic profile.
This means that blood sugar levels, cholesterol, triglycerides and insulin are all higher, leading to such health problems as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and strokes.
In other words, this visceral fat is slowly killing you.
How Do You Know How Much Visceral Fat You Have or Should Have?
In my research I came up with this excellent piece of information for you about the ideal body fat percentage – make sure you have a read: Ideal Body Fat Percentage Chart – How Lean Should You Be?
Clearly, it is very important to do something about visceral fat, but how do you know if you have any? If you have a beer belly, then that is a good indicator that your levels of visceral fat are pretty high.
So by that time it is often too late to really make a significant difference quickly. But of course you can do something…..it is just going to take some time and perseverance and it will be well worth your while to do so.
It is always better to prevent these problems from happening in the first place, rather than trying to fixing them after the horse has bolted. The problem is, of course, that visceral fat is invisible, which means you cannot simply look at yourself in the mirror and determine whether or not you carry a lot of visceral fat.
The BMI (body mass index) falls terribly short in these calculations, and working out your WHR (waist to hip ratio) is only telling if you already have too much visceral fat.
Scientists are now looking at the BVI (body volume index). This is a device that will create a full 3D image of your body, which will show just how much fat tissue is in your body, and how much muscle tissue.
Alternatively, check out John Hopkins Medicine.
They have a quick and easy way of assessing your risk factor by simply measuring your waist. For a female measuring 102 cm (40 inches) or more, or a male whose waist size is 89 cm (35 inches) or more……then it is highly probable you have some health issues with visceral fat so it is high time to start shedding some weight before diabetes or some other equally nasty lifestyle disease starts to take hold.
You DO have to make sure you understand levels of essential fat.
The percentages are different between men and women (women need more fat than men), as well as between regular individuals and athletes and also your age has a bearing on it. As you get older your percentages become higher so it is easy for people to let things get out of hand thinking it is just part of the ageing process.
Although having too much fat is, of course, a huge problem, and we also have the reverse effect…..having insufficient fat is also dangerous.
This is because the body will no longer be able to deliver essential minerals and vitamins to the different organs.
How to Get Rid of Harmful Belly Fat
Just Assume You Have High Visceral Fat levels and Work Hard to Get Rid of It.
The best thing to do, according to scientists, is presume you have visceral fat and work towards getting rid of it. As always, achieving greater health is about combining diet and exercise.
In terms of your diet, you must avoid the bad fats, which are trans fats (artificial fats) and saturated fats (the fats that don’t do anything for you).
Therefore, avoid processed foods and foods that tend to be brown or beige in colour. When you eat meat, make sure it is lean; buy grass fed and go organic when you can.
You should also eat cold water fish at least twice a week (salmon), as this is full of the good kinds of fat, as well as helping you balance your levels of omega 3 and omega 6. You should also eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetable a day, again choosing organic when you can.
Finally, make sure you drink plenty of water (ice cold is the best, as this makes your body burn more calories because it has to warm the water up).
In terms of your exercise regime, any movement is good movement. Leave the car at home and walk when you can, take the stairs instead of the lift (elevator) or escalator, ride your bike and play all sorts of funny movement type games with you kids.
There are two things we do know about the Hidden Dangers of Visceral Fat:
1. When you exercise, your levels of visceral fat will go down (especially when added to a calorie controlled diet).
2.We also know that if you don’t exercise, your levels will go up, even if you eat an overall healthy diet.
This is because your body can literally not do anything with certain fats other than store them if you don’t get sufficient exercise.
So now it is time to get your running shoes out. Or, if you don’t like running, get swimming, go to the gym or start jumping up and down in muddy puddles with your kids or if you are like me then with the grand kids.
Do anything you can to get enough exercise in your daily life to help get rid of the dangerous visceral fat we all carry. If not for you, then do it for your family. Just 30 minutes a day and you’re away.
So go to it, and let me know how it works out for you.
Cheers – John – your Active Ageing Coach and Mentor.
P.S. Help a friend……..like and share. Thanks.
Steven Siemons says
Thanks for visiting The Senior Health and Fitness Blog last month and leaving your kind remarks. No excuses for not contacting you sooner.
There’s no doubt that you, like me, want to genuinely help others get healthy!
Keep up the Personal Trainer studies,
John Falkinder says
Thanks for your kind words Steven and I also appreciate your encouragement.
Cheers – John F