When people think about fat, most think of fat around the muscles and beneath the skin (what is known as subcutaneous fat).
But there is another type of fat called visceral fat that is particularly harmful to health.
Well, what is visceral fat?
Visceral fat is a type of fat that is stored around the organs rather than beneath the skin. It is especially more common around the abdominal organs. Visceral fat is what is also known as intra-abdominal tissue that accumulates around the intestines, liver, kidney and even the pancreas.
If you have a waistline that is more than you would like it to be or if you have a belly that is enlarging or protruding then that is a sign that you are storing visceral fat. This type of fat is easier to identify in people who are overweight and who have protruding bellies, but it is important to note that anyone can have visceral fat even if it is not immediately apparent.
What is the danger with visceral fat?
Visceral fat, unlike subcutaneous fat, can change the way your body works. Visceral fat acts like an organ by producing inflammatory substances and hormones. These substances it produces interfere with normal hormone function and can affect blood sugar control, appetite and brain function. People with high amounts of visceral fat are therefore at likely to have the following challenges,
They are likely to crave sugary foods and have large appetites
They are likely to have mood changes
They are more likely to gain weight
They are more at risk for inflammatory diseases like diabetes, heart disease, dementia, cancer and even depression.
They are also at risk for problems like sexual dysfunction and sleep problems
Clearly, it is not ideal to have large amounts of visceral fat.
How do you know if you have visceral fat?
The easiest way is to do a body composition test. This is one that looks at the ratio of your muscle to your fat but also looks at how much internal visceral fat you have. A body mass index alone isn’t enough to let you know whether or not you have visceral fat because even people with normal weight or BMI could have high amounts of visceral fat.
A waist circumference measurement can also give you an indication but as I mentioned earlier, visceral fat may not always be easily apparent from outside.
How does visceral fat build up?
This revolves around 3 words; Sugar, Toxins and Stress
Sugar – When we eat foods high in sugar and refined sugar such as table sugar, soda, ice cream, bread etc, our blood sugar levels spike. This causes the body to produce large amounts of insulin (the blood sugar regulation hormone). This hormone is known to make the body store large amounts of fat especially if you ate more sugar than you needed but it also makes you hungry. So eating high sugar foods and refined carbohydrate-rich foods leads to a vicious cycle of hunger, craving for sugar, more eating, more insulin production, and eventually fat production and storage. And the fat is stored mostly around the belly.
Toxins – The body stores toxins in fat cells to prevent them from causing harm. Common toxins include substances like alcohol, tobacco, sugar, flavourings, food additives and even other environmental pollutants. Now the organ for removing toxins is the liver. So, the body stores toxins in fat that is as close to the liver as possible. The abdomen is, therefore, the most ideal place. And so high toxin burden contributes to building up of belly and intra-abdominal fat.
Stress – When we are stressed the body produces chemicals like cortisol a steroid hormone that interferes with appetite control, sleep, metabolism and can also stimulate cravings. All these contribute to visceral fat production.
How to reduce and get rid of visceral and belly fat?
Quit or significantly cut our sugar from your diet
Reduce or eliminate foods high refined carbohydrates from your diet. These include foods such as refined wheat foods such as white bread, cakes, pasta, chapati, mandazi, pizza, biscuits and other such foods. Other foods high in refined carbohydrates include refined white rice and refined maize meal (also known as posho)
Drink lots of water. If we keep our body hydrated, it helps with sugar metabolism as well as in helping the body to flush out toxins. Aim to get at least 2 litres per day or get your weight in Kg and divide that number by 30. The answer you get is an estimate of how much water your body requires in litres per day.
Eat more vegetables and whole fruit. Vegetables are high in antioxidants that your liver uses to eliminate toxins. But they are also high in fibre and low in calories that will help to avoid sugar spikes. Eating fruit whole is also a good way to get all the nutrients you need without the spikes that can come from converting fruit into juice.
Aim to eat 50 percent of your daily food from vegetables and fruit
Make healthy smoothies that are full of mostly vegetables and a bit of fruit for flavour. Use the whole fruit and vegetable and don’t sieve the juice. Rather use a high-power blender like a nutribullet that can convert your fruit and vegetables into a healthy smoothie. This is a must-have device in your home. If you would like one or to know more about one please get in touch or visit my website www.drkasenene.com. It can help you to get a good amount of vegetables and fruit into your diet. But remember that or smoothie should have more vegetables than fruit to be healthy. A vegetable to fruit ratio of 4:1 or 3:1 is most ideal. Add some chia seeds to make your drink even healthier.
Detoxify the body. This does not mean buying a fancy supplement or doing a colon cleanse. This means eating foods high in antioxidants as described in point 4 above. A juice only diet for a short period of time can help but remember it should be made from the whole food, no added sugar and mostly vegetables. Wellcare can help you get on an effective juice fast or diet to help detoxify the body and reduce your belly.
Exercise regularly. Exercise helps to balance insulin and makes our cells better at using glucose so we don’t have to store much as fat. As much as any exercise is recommended, the best is what we call HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training). HIITs exercise involves having short bursts of intense exercise such as sprinting, followed by a short rest and another burst of exercise. (Read these up). Doing planks and crunches can contribute but mostly if you are doing other exercise and following the advice above. Crunches and alone cannot take away a large belly considering that most of the cause is fat that is caused by sugar, toxins and stress.
Manage your stress. Many of us know we are stressed but don’t do much about it. This is just an appeal to get you thinking about how you can take steps within your control right now to start managing stress. I will in a future newsletter share something about this.
Get enough and good quality sleep. Good reset has been shown to help with reducing sugar cravings but more importantly to help with regulation of blood sugar and stress hormones, two of the biggest drivers of visceral fat production and increase in our belly sizes.
Take home message;
Visceral fat is a type of internal fat that accumulates around our intestines and other organs that can increase our risk for health problems. Anyone can have it but especially people who are overweight and have enlarged bellies. It is something we should all do something about. Here are 4 action items you should consider
Get a body composition screening to find out your weight, body fat, body muscle, body age and visceral fat. Schedule an appointment to get a free check with Wellcare between the 26th February and 2nd March 2019.
Make a decision to drink more water, drink less soda and packed drinks, eat less refined sugary foods and if possible cut out sugar.
If you have a big belly, make a plan to reduce it beginning by going on a 7-day detox that Wellcare can help you with. Click here if you are interested
Get yourself a high power blender. My recommendation is the nutribullet. You can learn more about it here
Wishing you health, peace and happiness