Visceral fat causes, Dangers and Recommendations

Visceral fat causes, Dangers and Recommendations
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A common response I get when I reprimand people about round bellies is “This is a sign of good wellbeing; it shows that I can afford to eat whatever I wish”. Hence the phrase “Financial Muscle” has become popular.

While the latter may be true, people with round bellies do often eat whatever they wish. The former is definitely a deception; round bellies are anything but a sign of good wellbeing. As a matter of fact, a round belly is a classic exampl of poor wellbeing.

I don’t go round reprimanding people about their stomach, especially since weight is a sensitive topic for most. When I do however reprimand someone about their round belly it is often for a good reason. Diagnosing health defects resulting from lack of physical activity is kind of my business, it’s what I do.

Read on as I reveal to you how a round belly is formed, shaped and inflated. What causes it and what effects it has on your wellbeing (spoiler alert–Diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke and the possibility of cancer).

For those who already have round bellies, do not despair! The good news is round bellies can be reversed through exercise and a good diet. To those of you without one, let’s make sure it stays that way. In this article, you will be acquainted with the necessary information to ensure that you side-step getting one. By the way, did you know that according to the world health organization (WHO) an extra eight centimeters around the hips increases the risk of bowel cancer by 15%? The cancer risk increases when the waist circumference exceeds 102 centimeters for men and 88 centimeters for women. Scary!  

similar article: Exercising outdoors with Green Outdoor Gyms

Visceral fat, Its Causes and effects

It helps to know what the cause of an illness is to avoid history from repeating itself. And yes, in my practice a round belly is an illness. It is diagnosed as abdominal visceral fat. This is the term I will use henceforth.

Visceral fat is body fat that is stored within the abdominal cavity, meaning it is stored deep underneath the skin. You cannot touch it, hence the term visceral (internal organs of the body). It’s a form of a gel-like fat that’s actually wrapped around your major organs, including the liver, pancreas, and kidneys [1]. This kind of fat can interrupt the regular functions of your organs and produce harmful substances [2].

Generally, a poor diet and lack of physical activity can cause the accumulation of fat in the body. This is done primarily through insulin, which is a hormone that controls sugar levels in the body. When we digest food, our body breaks down sugar and starch molecules into simpler units called glucose or fructose [1]. When glucose enters our blood stream, insulin is released so it (insulin) can guide the blood sugar into the cells in the body to supply the body with energy for muscular function and brain and tissue activity. This is amazing if it works properly.

When there is too much glucose in our blood stream and our cells already have filled glycogen stores, glucose is stored as fat [1]. This is then escalated by consuming unhealthy foods which in turn releases more insulin from the pancreas. This usually results in more fat being produced. Then the cycle continues and you crave more and more sweet food and you feel hungry more often. So you eat more unhealthy food and produce even more fat in the internal organs.

As with anything that grows inside your body, the body will adapt to accommodate those changes. Since visceral fat is stored in the internal body organs, your body shape adjusts to make room for it and that is how the round belly is formed. The more the visceral fat develops inside the body, the more the belly is inflated.

Effects on health and well-being

We all have distinct mounts of visceral fat in the body and this differs from person to person partially depending on one’s gender and heredity. One should be able to tell however, through simple waist measurements once they have crossed the health threshold. As a rule of thumb, if you have protruding belly and large waist, that’s a clear sign that you’re storing dangerous visceral fat. Dr. Axe suggests that women with a waist circumference that more than 35 inches and men with a waist circumference more than 40 inches are at increased risk for various diseases and should try to lower their fat stores as soon as possible [1]. You need not concern yourself too much about how much of that fat is visceral and how much is subcutaneous.

The common look that comes with having too much visceral fat is the pregnant look. This is not a look that society frowns upon. Unless of course you are not pregnant or you’ve been looking pregnant for the past two years. Besides making you look like you’ve been for longer than is normal.

Visceral fat increases the risk of life threatening diseases such as:

  • Type 2 diabetes [3, 4] 
  • Stroke [1, 4]
  • Coronary heart disease [1]
  • Cancer (Breast and colorectal) [3]
  • High blood pressure [4]
  • Alzheimer’s disease [3, 4]
  • Dementia [1, 4]
  • Depression [1]
  • Obesity [1]
  • Sexual dysfunctional [1]
  • Sleep disorders [1]

Long list, I know! Hopefully it will motivate people to change their eating habits and move a little more. The dangers of visceral fat are related to the release of proteins and hormones that can cause inflammation, which in turn can damage arteries and affect how your body breaks down sugars and fats.

Prevention and treatment of visceral fat

The are various means to rid yourself of visceral fat or at least keep it at a minimum. This article focuses mainly on diet and exercise, the natural way. Of course, if you can afford to, you can opt for surgery and literally go under the knife. Good luck healing the scars.  

Assuming you can do without the scars and you would rather exercise. If you burn more energy than you consume then you are well on your way to getting rid of visceral fat and keeping it off. What works more effective than that is a combination of exercise and good diet.

To reduce visceral fat you need to:

  • Reduce your alcohol consumption [3]
  • Reduce your stress levels [1, 3]
  • Reduce sugar and refined carbs [1]
  • Sleep enough [1, 2, 3]
  • Exercise regularly at increased intensity [1, 3]
  • Fill up on non-starchy veggies, fat and proteins [1]

It may take some time to adapt to these changes but with time you will notice that it is really not that tough. Trust me on this one, you will have more fun if you embrace this as a challenge than if you don’t. If you need some motivation to take into consideration that the benefits stretch far beyond just making you look healthier.

It is very easy to shift your weight problem to other factors like heredity (it runs in the family so it’s in my genes). This article has explained that in spite of this that visceral fat is mainly caused by poor lifestyle choices such as sedentary lifestyle and a poor diet. These choices can have devastating consequences on your health if you do not change your ways soon.  To reduce the chances of that happening I went a step further and acquainted you with the different means to reduce and prevent visceral fat and the dangers associated with it. Remember that your body is your only permanent home. I suggest you take good care of it.

Works Cited

[1] J. Axe, “Visceral fat: What is it and why it’s so Dangerous,” [Online]. Available: [Accessed 24 Octeber 2017].

[2] S. Presley, “What causes visceral fat Vs. Subcutaneous fat,” [Online]. Available: http://HealthyLiving.azcentra.coml/causes-visceral-fat-Vs- Subcutaneous-fat-5985.html. [Accessed 24 October 2017].

[3] Diabetes Digital Media, “Viceral fat (Active fat),” [Online]. Available: [Accessed 24 October 2017].

[4] “The Dangers Of Visceral Fat,” 24 January 2015. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 24 October 2017].

[5] H. WALKER, “What causes DANGEROUS belly fat and how can you lose it?,” 2015. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 11 October 2017].

[6] A. MILLER, “What Causes Females to Have Excess Belly Fat?,” 2017. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 11 October 2017].

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Thando W. Dlamini, BA

Sport Development and Exercise Science Practitioner

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