Visceral fat is the medical term for abdominal fat. A bulging midsection has been shown to cause more problems than simply increasing your clothing size.
This adipose tissue is distinct from the surface layer of fat found just beneath the skin– also called subcutaneous fat. Visceral fat occurs in the space around abdominal organs and can cause numerous and severe health problems, including bone loss. Today we'll take a close look at the harm visceral fat can cause, and how to reduce it.
1. Visceral Fat Increases Diabetes Risk
Studies have found that visceral fat is linked to insulin resistance, which leads to glucose intolerance and Type 2 diabetes. Visceral fat secretes a protein that binds retinol, resulting in insulin resistance.1
One study of 1,603 Korean adults found that visceral fat was a leading indicator of diabetes when compared with other factors that increase diabetes risk.2 Here's what the researchers concluded:
“After adjusting for age and other potential confounding factors, participants with a visceral fat mass in the upper 10th percentile had a higher odds ratio (OR) for diabetes and prediabetes than the upper 10th percentile of other adiposity indices”2
Visceral fat secretes a protein that increases insulin resistance. This makes it a leading indicator of diabetes risk.
2. Visceral Fat Linked To High Cholesterol
A 2008 study linked increased waist circumference to high cholesterol levels, which elevates the risk of coronary artery disease. Visceral fat increases are linked to both higher total cholesterol and less balance between low-density and high-density lipoprotein levels (LDL and HDL).3
This connects abdominal obesity directly to cardiovascular disease (CD), the leading cause of death in countries across the world. The researchers found that study participants' CD risk is more closely linked to abdominal obesity than other areas of excess fat. 3
Visceral fat has a negative impact on cholesterol levels, and consequently increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.
3. Visceral Fat Increases Inflammation
A study published in the journal Diabetes found that visceral fat causes the secretion of a proinflammatory signal called interleukin (IL)-6. This signal causes systemic inflammation in people with abdominal obesity.4
This sort of system-wide inflammation quickly becomes chronic. It has cascading negative effects throughout the body, including damage to the immune system and the bone remodeling process.
The researchers underscored the importance of their findings by pointing to the links between inflammation and atherosclerosis, cancer, and aging.4
Visceral fat can cause systemic inflammation by secreting pro-inflammatory signals. This inflammation leads to other diseases and health problems.
4. Visceral Fat Raises Heart Attack Risk
A study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association tracked half a million people between the ages of 40 and 69 to compare body measurements and myocardial infarction (MI) also known as heart attack. The researchers compared how a bigger waist circumference increased heart attack risk among men and women.5
They found that visceral fat, which they described as central adiposity, was more strongly associated with myocardial infarction in women than in men. The same relationship didn't occur when considering fatty tissue in other parts of the body.5
A study found that a large waist circumference increases the risk of myocardial infarction (heart attack) and that the risk was greater in women than in men.
5. Visceral Fat Damages Your Brain
A study conducted at the Medical College of Georgia has identified how visceral fat harms brain function. Visceral fat generates chronic high levels of the proinflammatory protein signal interleukin-1 beta.6
This signal is not typically abundant in the brain. When visceral fat generates and sends large quantities of it, the signal crosses the blood-brain barrier into the brain and impairs cognition. The body responds by creating inflammation in the brain that further impairs mental functions such as learning and memory.6
The proinflammatory signals generated by visceral fat make their way into the brain where they impair cognition and create inflammation that further slows mental function.
6. Visceral Fat Hurts Your Bones
Most importantly for Savers, visceral fat has been shown to increase bone loss. A study presented at the Radiological Society of North America found that high levels of internal abdominal fat damages bones.7 Here are some details from that presentation:
“Dr. Bredella and colleagues set out to evaluate the abdominal subcutaneous, visceral and total fat, as well as bone marrow fat and bone mineral density, in 50 premenopausal women with a mean BMI of 30… The imaging revealed that women with more visceral fat had increased bone marrow fat and decreased bone mineral density. However, there was no significant correlation between either subcutaneous fat or total fat and bone marrow fat or bone mineral density.”7
Again we see that subcutaneous fat and overall fat levels do not cause the negative impacts caused by visceral fat. Here we see that more abdominal adipose tissue was directly associated with bone loss.7
This makes reducing visceral fat essential for preventing and reversing osteoporosis.
A study of 50 premenopausal women found that the participants with the most visceral fat had decreased bone mineral density. That makes reducing visceral fat essential for fighting osteoporosis.
How To Reduce Visceral Fat
Fortunately, you can reduce visceral abdominal fat through moderate-intensity physical activity.
Abdominal fat can be effectively reduced by exercising regularly. It's important to note that exercises that target the abdominal muscles don't have any special benefit for reducing visceral fat. But weight-bearing aerobic exercise benefits your bones and reduces abdominal fat.8
Additionally, a healthy diet that focuses on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, while limiting saturated fats can help to reduce visceral fat. Those guidelines are consistent with the Osteoporosis Reversal Program's 80/20 pH-balanced diet.
That makes perfect sense. We know that reducing visceral fat is good for your bone health, so a diet that reduces those abdominal fat deposits would naturally be a bone-healthy diet.
Regular exercise and a diet that focuses on complex carbohydrates and reduces saturated fats can help reduce visceral fat. All of those habits are also bone-healthy habits recommended in the Osteoporosis Reversal Program.
What This Means To You
Now you know more about the difference between subcutaneous fat and visceral abdominal fat, so you can use this knowledge to make healthier choices every day.
If your waistline has expanded, set a course for getting it in check. As the studies above show, the visceral fat that causes that bulge can wreak havoc on your whole body– from your brain to your cholesterol to your bones.
For help developing a custom-tailored workout routine, try SaveTrainer. SaveTrainer is the Save Institute's on-demand video workout platform. It has all the support you need from qualified instructors to build an exercise plan you can maintain and enjoy.
Fortunately, you have all the tools you need to prioritize your bone health and live life to the fullest.