Visceral Fat: That’s Why The Fat In The Belly Is So Dangerous!

You don’t see it, but it can do massive damage to your health: Visceral fat is stuck in your abdomen and wraps around your organs. Here’s what you need to know and keep in mind…

It’s an invisible danger that can lie dormant inside us – and can affect even those who appear to be of normal weight. Because in addition to the visible external abdominal fat that each of us can easily recognize, there is also an internal layer of fat in the abdomen. Namely, that which wraps around our organs – the so-called visceral fat.

We tell you what visceral fat is all about and what exactly you have to watch out for!

What is visceral fat?

Actually, abdominal fat is not a bad thing by nature: In earlier times, it served as survival protection for people during periods of food shortage. This is because, unlike fat reserves on the buttocks or thighs, visceral belly fat can be converted directly by the body into sugar and thus into energy.

This process ensured survival for people in earlier days for up to 40 days without additional food intake! In addition, internal abdominal fat also serves as mechanical protection for our organs.

The problem today: Especially in western industrial societies, hardly anyone really needs to make use of this archaic protective mechanism anymore.

In fact, the problem for us today is rather the other way around: There is too much of a good thing – which in turn makes itself felt in the superfluous extra belly fat. Because that’s where excess energy built up by too much food is deposited first – in visible and invisible results. And this can be quite dangerous for our health.

Why is visceral fat dangerous?

Visceral fat is very metabolically active. This means that it contains around 200 messenger substances and inflammatory molecules that influence important hormones in your body – in this case, unfortunately, mostly unfavorable ones.

Meanwhile, physicians critically assess visceral fat as a gland that very actively shoots fatty acids into the blood on its own, which then also remain there and cause mischief because the cells cannot do anything with them. The “normal” subcutaneous fat, on the other hand, is not active.

How can it be measured?

The unsatisfactory truth is: our inner pads cannot really be measured. However, too much of it also ensures that our abdominal circumference grows visibly and measurably on the outside. That’s why waist circumference is now considered the most important quick indicator of the fat status of your belly.

Body fat scales give you information and also a value about the fat content of your body, but on the one hand, these measurements are often not really accurate, and on the other hand, you do not get a specific value for the inner belly fat, but only a general one about your body fat.

On the other hand, an expensive abdominal examination with a magnetic resonance tomograph (MRT) provides exact information – without medical indication, however, you should literally save yourself this visit.

Causes: This is how visceral fat develops

It has been scientifically proven that stress is extremely conducive to the development of visceral fat. Since time immemorial, stress has been the emergency and survival signal for our body to accumulate as much fat as possible in order to survive bad times.

This is exactly where the danger exists for normally slim people, and especially women, to develop a “little belly” despite a slim body silhouette.

Normal values for men and women

Since the exact determination of the visceral fat value is very time-consuming and expensive, the outer abdominal circumference is generally measured to estimate the risk. The (slight) risk for women begins with an abdominal circumference of 82 centimeters or more; the risk is significantly increased at more than 88 centimeters. For men, the risk is slightly increased from an abdominal circumference of 94 centimeters – it is then significantly increased from 102 centimeters!

However, these figures are only a rough guideline. Because your height (for women, for example, 82 centimeters is considered safe for a height between 160 and 175 centimeters) and your muscle percentage also play a role in the assessment of a possible risk.

Men tend to have fat deposits in the middle of their bodies, while women have big fat problem areas on their hips, buttocks, and thighs. However, as a rule of thumb, you can definitely keep in mind that men and women with flat stomachs usually don’t have dangerous visceral fat.

Diseases that often occur with visceral fat

If you have a high percentage of visceral fat, your personal risk for type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke, increases.

Visceral fat: how to get rid of it

You can actually do a lot yourself against too much belly fat. A mixture of endurance sports, such as running twice a week for 30 to 45 minutes, and exercises that emphasize the center of the body, such as crunches or sit-ups, ensure that the already unloved fat in the center of your body is quickly and noticeably reduced.

A high-fiber diet also ensures long-lasting satiety and thus less food intake in the long term.

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Written by Bella Adams

I'm a professionally-trained, executive chef with over ten years in Restaurant Culinary and hospitality management. Experienced in specialized diets, including Vegetarian, Vegan, Raw foods, whole food, plant-based, allergy-friendly, farm-to-table, and more. Outside of the kitchen, I write about lifestyle factors that impact well-being.

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