Visceral fat – why you should care!

Weight gain is often accepted as a fact of life as you reach your middle age, but this can be a dangerous misconception. 

When you pinch the fat around your belly, you’re grabbing what is known as the subcutaneous fat, which is mostly harmless. Below this layer, however, lies another type of invisible fat, which is a little more insidious – visceral fat.

What is visceral fat?

Unlike subcutaneous fat, visceral fat is stored deep within the abdominal cavity, and is found near vital organs, such as the liver, stomach and intestines. 

It’s often referred to as ‘active’ fat, as having too much of it can actively lead to serious health problems, such as heart attacks, heart disease and diabetes. 

How do you measure it?

The most accurate way to measure your percentage of visceral fat is with a CT or MRI scan. If you’re concerned, Bodyscan offer a full body composition scan from £159, which provides an assessment of your visceral fat risk.

If you’d rather not part with that kind of money though, you can actually use a waistline measurement to get a good indicator of your visceral fat. Around 10% of all body fat is visceral, so if you are carrying more overall body fat than you should be, you’re also likely to have more than the safe amount of visceral fat.

The NHS advises that you should try to lose weight if your waistline exceeds 94cm for men, and 80cm for women, so it’s definitely worth digging out your tape measure for a quick check.

How do you get rid of it?

Good news! Visceral fat can be lost with exercise and diet changes – for each pound you lose, you’ll also lose some visceral fat.

Aim to do 30 minutes of exercise each day, including cardio and strength training. Cardio will burn fat faster, but strength training will slowly burn more calories over time, as your muscles get stronger and consume more energy.

It’s also crucial to follow a well-balanced diet – try to eliminate or cut down on processed, high-fat, and high-sugar meals. Instead, you should aim to replace them with more nutritious dishes containing lean proteins (Fish, chicken, tofu) and complex carbs (sweet potatoes, beans, lentils). 

Once you have these good habits in place, you can also use safe and effective medications to supplement your weight loss, such as orlistat, which can prevent around one third of the fat you consume from being absorbed by your body.

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