Visceral fat plays a crucial role in our overall health. But what exactly is it, and why is it important? In this article, you'll find the answers as we discuss the risk of health problems and scientifically backed strategies to maintain this fat percentage at a healthy level. Additionally, we'll delve into the InBody test, which we utilize at Physicum to gain insight into your visceral fat levels.
What is visceral fat?
Visceral fat refers to the fat that accumulates around internal organs such as the liver, intestines, kidneys, and pancreas. Unlike subcutaneous fat, which is directly under the skin, visceral fat is located deeper within the abdominal cavity. While a certain amount of fat is essential for the body – it protects your organs, for example – an excess of visceral fat can pose serious health risks.
Various factors, including genetics and lifestyle, influence the accumulation of visceral fat. Individuals with a genetic predisposition to higher visceral fat storage need to be particularly vigilant to prevent health problems.
Because visceral fat is situated deeper in the abdomen, beneath the abdominal muscles, you may not always be aware of it. You cannot feel or see it. Visceral abdominal fat is often recognizable by a so-called "beer belly," where the abdomen protrudes or is large and hard. It often occurs when someone is overweight in general – but excess abdominal fat doesn't necessarily mean it's visceral fat. Moreover, visceral fat around the organs of someone who appears slim and healthy can also be too high without being visible.
Health risks of excess visceral fat
Scientific research indicates that excess visceral fat is associated with an increased risk of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain types of cancer. The fat produces substances that promote inflammation and disrupt the normal functioning of organs.
A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that a higher level of visceral fat was significantly associated with a greater risk of coronary heart disease, even in people with a normal BMI.
Measuring visceral fat with an InBody Test at Physicum
At Physicum, we utilize advanced technology such as the InBody test to perform accurate body measurements. The InBody scan employs bioelectrical impedance technology to analyze various parameters of body composition. In just a few minutes, you receive comprehensive information about your body composition, including scores related to muscle mass, BMI, fat percentage, basal metabolism, and visceral fat.
How Does the InBody Test Work?
During the scan, harmless electrical impulses are sent through the body, which conduct differently through various tissues. For example, visceral fat has different conductivity than muscles or bones. The InBody test measures these differences and provides detailed information about fat distribution in the body.
The advantage of the InBody scan is the immediate and accurate results it provides. Furthermore, it allows you to track changes in body composition over time, enabling you to monitor whether you're moving towards a healthy fat percentage.
Lifestyle and nutrition for a healthy visceral fat percentage
Healthy nutrition and physical activity play a crucial role in controlling visceral fat. Research has shown that certain dietary patterns, such as a nutrient-rich diet consisting of plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, adequate protein, and healthy fats, can be beneficial for reducing visceral fat. In most cases, it's effective to avoid refined carbohydrates when aiming to lose fat healthily: these are processed carbohydrates (sugars) such as cookies, chips, candies, but also white bread, pasta, or sweetened beverages.
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that regular physical activity can be effective in reducing visceral fat. The research shows that aerobic exercises are particularly effective, such as activities that increase heart rate and respiration. These include (brisk) walking, swimming, high-intensity interval training, and of course, strength training. It's also important to maintain an active lifestyle in general, especially if you have a sedentary job and spend a lot of time sitting at your desk.
In addition to diet and exercise, other lifestyle factors play a role in promoting healthy visceral fat distribution. Adequate sleep and effective stress management are essential, as lack of sleep and chronic stress tend to promote visceral fat accumulation. It's therefore crucial to ensure sufficient relaxation during the day and a good night's sleep to help the body recover. And did you know that adequate sleep aids in weight loss?
Practical tips for managing visceral fat
To effectively manage visceral fat, we share a few practical tips that you can incorporate into your daily routine to lead a healthier life:
- Healthy diet: Focus on fresh produce and whole foods such as vegetables, fruits, meats/fish/eggs, and healthy fats. For healthy fats, you can think of omega-3s as well as avocados and coconut oil. Try to prepare your meals yourself so you know what's in your food. Also, limit the intake of added sugars and processed foods.
- Snacks: Opt for healthy, unprocessed snacks like nuts, (dried) fruits, baked sweet potatoes, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, avocado, or a boiled egg. The best advice we can give you regarding nutrition is to plan and prepare your meals in advance so you're always prepared when hunger strikes.
- Recommended exercises: Combine aerobic exercises with strength training to reduce both overall body fat and visceral fat. Additionally, try to take the stairs instead of the elevator as much as possible, or ride a bike instead of driving your car. Exercise is an effective way to reduce visceral fat.
- Stress management: Try to reduce stress and seek more relaxation through techniques such as meditation, yoga, or breathing exercises.
- Adequate sleep: Ensure a good night's rest, as lack of sleep tends to cause hormonal changes that can promote fat storage. Establish a regular sleep schedule where you go to bed and wake up at the same time each day: you help your body create a rhythm. Adequate sleep is not only good for your overall health but also helps when you want to shed some pounds.
Visceral fat may not always be visible, but it's crucial to consider for a healthy body. While a certain amount is good for organ protection, excess visceral fat can lead to serious health problems. The InBody Test is a way to understand your visceral fat score so you can monitor it and actively work towards a healthier lifestyle. With a balanced diet, sufficient physical activity, a focus on good sleep, and reduction of chronic stress, you can make significant strides in reducing visceral fat and promoting a healthy life. Would you like assistance in changing your lifestyle the right way? Fill out our match test for our options for personal training, nutrition, and lifestyle coaching.