Studies show that people who have excess belly fat have a higher risk of developing chronic disease even when they are not overweight. Sounds like a contradiction, but where we store our body fat can put us at three times greater risk of death from cardiovascular disease and can double the risk of early death from other causes, as compared to those with a normal waist to hip ratio. Abdominal or visceral fat is a key player in many health concerns. Visceral fat is not the same fat that can be grasped with your hand; it lies deep within the abdominal cavity and fills the spaces surrounding our internal organs. Subcutaneous fat, which you can pinch, lies just underneath the skin. Women tend to have more subcutaneous fat than men, generally on their hips and thighs. However, as women age and go through menopause, they are more likely to develop larger waistlines and store more visceral fat, as their estrogen levels naturally decline.
What are the health dangers associated with visceral fat? Research suggests that abdominal fat cells are metabolically and biologically active and actually function like an endocrine gland, releasing hunger hormones, such as leptin, and influencing insulin response. Visceral fat appears to disrupt the normal functioning of these hormones, which typically aid health by regulating hunger and insulin, burning stored fat and protecting against diabetes. The excess release of these and other chemicals, including some that are released by the immune system, can promote insulin resistance, diabetes and heart disease. Visceral fat surrounds critical organs such as the liver and is linked to unhealthy cholesterol levels, fatty liver disease and low-grade inflammation.
The good news is that visceral fat responds well to a healthy diet and exercise. Visceral fat metabolizes fairly easily into fatty acids, which can then be used for cellular energy production. As the belly shrinks and fat is reduced, the associated health risks, including high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels are also reduced. Waist measurement is a good indicator of visceral fat. For an average sized woman, waist measurement should not exceed 35″. For an average sized man, a waist measurement above 40″ is cause for concern. If you are trying to lose weight and belly fat and are not seeing results, changes to your routine can help.
- Include the appropriate fat burning exercise in your exercise routine. Cardio workouts for at least 30 minutes a day most days of the week are critical to weight loss. To get full exercise benefits for belly fat loss, you must also to weight train several days a week. Weight training helps to burn fat by increasing muscle mass, which takes more energy to maintain and revs your metabolism to increase calorie burn throughout the day.
- Skip the processed foods, which increase inflammation and hinder the ability to lose belly fat. Eat whole foods like vegetables and fruits that naturally contain antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties.
- Be sure to eat healthy fats. Contrary to popular belief, eating healthy dietary fat does not make you gain weight. Healthy fats found in olive oil, fatty fish, avocados and nuts help to prevent belly fat. Fats provide energy, protect our organs and help process nutrients. Healthy fats help to lower the risks of chronic disease by lowering LDL and raising HDL cholesterol levels, boost brain function and keep skin and eyes healthy.
- Take a break from stress. High stress levels mean higher levels of cortisol, which has been linked to higher levels of visceral fat. Chronic stress may not only cause overconsumption of unhealthy calories, but may also make it harder to lose weight.
- Get a good night’s sleep on a regular basis. Studies show that sleeping too much (more than 8 hours), or too little (less than 5 hours), can result in increased visceral fat. Aim for about 7 hours each night and keep it consistent.
- Even though some people are genetically disposed to gaining weight around the middle, a combination approach to weight loss that includes weight training and cardiovascular exercise, a lower carb, higher fat diet and reduced sugar consumption will help you to overcome obstacles and lose visceral fat.
- Eat fewer calories but eat better calories. Calorie reduction should not be radical, as too few calories can put your body in starvation mode and slow your metabolism, making it harder to lose weight. To recap, eat lots of vegetables, lean protein, moderate amounts of fruit and include some healthy fats. Limit processed foods, sugary drinks and trans-fats.
Products to aid in weight reduction include:VFM-100™ by Complementary Prescriptions aids in suppressing the formation of visceral fat and has been shown to reduce body weight, waist circumference and abdominal fat in conjunction with a healthy diet and lifestyle program. CLA by Ortho Molecular contains Conjugated Linoleic Acid obtained from safflower seed oil that naturally supports reducing body fat while increasing muscle tone when combined with a healthy diet and exercise. 7-Keto Lean by Integrative Therapeutics has been clinically shown to burn fat and promote weight loss when used in conjunction with a healthy diet and exercise program. Super HCA (98028) by Douglas Laboratories supplies 1400 mg of Garcinia cambogia extract that may aid in normal appetite regulation and may be useful for weight management by preventing the conversion of excess glucose from dietary carbs into stored body fat.