Visceral fat is fat stored around our organs. It produces more chemicals than subcutaneous (under the skin) fat, which is why it’s termed ‘toxic fat’. The excess chemicals may lead to abnormal cell division, making 13 types of cancer more likely to grow. Visceral fat also increases risk of Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and many other conditions.
Here’s what we know:
- The best way to tell if you have visceral fat is to measure your waist. Waist circumference, at the narrowest point after exhaling, of 80cm (31.5”) for women and 94cm (37”) for men* indicates an increased risk of chronic disease. Generally, the larger your waist circumference, the higher your risk.
- As women get older, especially after menopause, it is common to develop visceral fat in the abdominal region. Women will often not put on weight as heavier muscle density reduces with age. In men, age and genetics contribute to developing visceral fat however drinking alcohol can lead to increased abdominal fat.
- Aside from excess consumption and inadequate activity, many factors can lead to excess visceral fat, including inherited genes, age, sleep quality, societal expectations, psychological factors and metabolism.
- The best way to reduce visceral fat, and stop it coming back, is through regular, moderate-intensity exercise. Visceral fat responds better to diet and exercise than fat on the hips.
- Spot exercising, such as doing sit-ups, can tighten abdominal muscles, but it won't reduce visceral fat.
- Speak to your GP or read more if you are concerned about your waist circumference or your risk of chronic illness.
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* These measurements apply only to adults, not to children. They also do not apply to pregnant women or people from certain non-European backgrounds, who may have different body shapes.