Visceral Fat – The Dangerous Fat You Don’t See

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obese vs thin person body scanTwo body scans, one a woman at 250 lbs and the other a woman at 120 lbs.

One reason they’re so good for comparison is the two women are about the same same height. As far as bones and muscle, it’s like you can see the thin person trapped inside the large person’s body.

First, you can notice the enlarged heart and the compressed knees in the pic.

But also notice the high amount of fat inside the abdominal cavity, in and around the organs (aka: visceral fat).

That’s right, folks. Fat is not just on the outside.

Sometimes big people who have lots of muscle don’t realize that their body fat is high. Big powerlifters gain a lot of weight in both muscle and fat, and they do it intentionally, eating an excess of calories, knowing that they can more effectively get stronger if they’re ok with gaining fat too. But they sometimes assume that all their fat is on the outside. They look in the mirror and see the muscle, and they don’t have a lot of subcutaneous fat (aka: fat under the skin and outside the body cavity, or the kind you can pinch) hanging off their body, so they assume most of their bulk is muscle and their body fat isn’t all that high. A scan like the above will show a different story.

High visceral body fat has been linked to increase risks of dementia, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and the list goes on and on. Subcutaneous fat actually doesn’t do much damage except in weighing the body down. It’s the internal visceral fat that causes all these other problems.

A “beer belly” or “wheat belly” can be evidence of high visceral fat, even among people with low subcutaneous fat.

“A person with a chubby tummy (more so above the belly button) but they may or may not carry much weight elsewhere such as the buttocks, thighs, chest and arms (apple shaped) are more likely to have visceral fat while a person with a slim waist and bigger bottom and thighs (pear shaped) generally will indicate lower to no visceral fat.” – http://www.rebootwithjoe.com/the-fat-inside-that-kills-you/

But to be clear, not everyone with a distended abdomen has high visceral fat. It might be due to any number of other digestive problems or other non-problems (pregnant, anyone?). Bodybuilders who appear to have low body fat but a distended abdomen may be taking a substance such as HGH (Human Growth Hormone). The hormones stimulate growth in the intestines and other organs, causing what’s called visceral growth, which isn’t fat but actually a growth of the organs. And as you can imagine, it’s tougher to reverse.

Visceral fat produces its own hormones and messages. It’s powerful stuff. It takes control of signaling related to appetite, makes you more sensitive to pain, inhibits muscle growth (powerlifters beware!), and causes inflammation. The inflammation causes a reaction in the body that produces even MORE visceral fat. –http://bodyecology.com/articles/do-you-have-a-wheat-belly

What Causes It?

Large amounts of meat, fructose, wheat, alcohol, and other foods have all been blamed for it. To me it isn’t clear whether anyone has it figured out, but good arguments have been put forth on each of these.

One source suggests that eating more of the rights kinds of fat will help reduce visceral body fat. (http://www.prevention.com/weight-loss/flat-belly-diet/flat-belly-diet-subcutaneous-and-visceral-belly-fat)

To me, this all backs up the type of diet that I currently am on anyway (or trying to stay on), which includes a lot of vegetables, fat, no added sugar, and a little meat and nuts. Basically, research nowadays keeps coming up with the conclusion that you want to cut out as much as possible any added sugars and anything else with a high glycemic index unless you’re going to be using that energy immediately so it doesn’t get converted into fat. I also do a lot better keeping my weight down by limiting my consumption of meat and especially any grains.

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