Are you worried about your waistline? Research suggests that if you’ve noticed that it’s been expanding, you probably should be…
Excess fat in any form is detrimental to your health, however location plays a key role in how dangerous your levels of fat are. Each year, new evidence is found that suggests visceral fat (the fat stored in your abdominal cavity and around your organs) is more menacing than the fat you can see when you look in the mirror.
It was previously thought that the only purpose of body fat was to be stored passively until it was needed to be used for energy, however research has shown that fat cells are actually biologically active, and that visceral fat cells are particularly active. Researchers have found that these fat cells are actually secreting hormones and other molecules that have far-reaching effects on other tissues. They have also distinguished a number of chemicals that link visceral fat to a wide range of diseases. These include:
- Cardiovascular Disease
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Breast Cancer
- And Colorectal Cancer
How can you tell if you’re storing this type of fat? It’s notoriously difficult to determine how much visceral fat you’re storing without having extensive testing in the form of CT scans etc. However, there are a couple of ways you can estimate your risk at home. Harvard University estimates that around 10% of your total body fat is visceral fat, so using a scale that can measure your body fat percentage can help you roughly calculate your levels. You can also measure your waist circumference and your hip circumference, then divide the waist by the hip. If the number is larger than 1.0 for men, or 0.85 for women then they are considered excessive. However, it’s important to remember that this method will also measure subcutaneous fat, although it would be beneficial to reduce this as well!
There are several things that you can do to help reduce your levels of visceral fat, and luckily for us, it’s actually more readily metabolised into fatty acid and so responds more efficiently to diet and exercise than fat stored in other areas of the body. So if you are worried about your risk of storing this type of fat, here are a few things that may help -
Diet - eat a balanced diet that helps you reach and maintain a healthy weight.
Quit smoking - the more you smoke, the more likely you are to gain visceral fat vs subcutaneous fat!
Make sure you’re getting enough sleep - if you get five hours or less a night when you’re 40+, you are vastly increasing your chances of storing visceral fat.
Reduce your stress levels - stress hormones are linked to higher visceral fat levels.
And finally, Exercise - not only does it help reduce your waist size, but it can also help stop visceral fat from coming back in the future!
So if you’ve noticed your trousers fitting a little more snuggly, or those buttons on your shirt working that little bit harder, then maybe it’s time to stop thinking about making a change and take the leap… You won’t change your life by continuing your current habits, you have to make a positive change in order to see a positive change!