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Visceral Fat Dangers: Causes and Remedies

Updated on July 31, 2012

Visceral fat or organ fat surrounds the body organs and the evidence of it's presence is usually seen in belly fat. Research has found that there is an alarming difference between visceral fat and fat stored on other parts of the body. The impact of fat stored on other parts of the body, although serious, does not appear to lead to life threatening health conditions. The dangers of visceral fat in many cases can be fatal.

The presence of fat around the organs is not always obvious. Inactive, mid-life individuals with a body mass index in normal range who regularly consume an unhealthy diet will have an accumulation of visceral fat. In fact, this type of person's weight and appearance may not appear to have changed between the ages of 20 to 50, but slowly muscle throughout the body has turned to fat.

Five different studies conducted at the Mayo clinic revealed that modest weight gain in mid-life plays a key role in the onset of cardiovascular disease and that the accumulation of visceral fat doubles the risk of heart attack even when the body mass index is in the normal range. Visceral fat has been linked to a other serious health conditions which include type 2 diabetes, breast cancer and gallbladder problems in women.

According to Harvard Medical School fat is biologically active and produces hormones and other substance which effect our health. Excess organ fat has been found to disrupt metabolic processes involved in the normal balancing and functioning of hormones. Scientists are also discovering that visceral fat releases chemicals called cytokines that increase the risk of heart disease. These and other chemicals are believed to interfere with the sensitivity of insulin receptors causing insulin resistance, normal blood clotting and raised blood pressure.

Studies have shown that visceral fat is directly linked to increased bad cholesterol (LDL) and decreased good cholesterol (HDL). It also causes systemic inflammation, can lead to dementia, stroke, kidney disease and respiratory conditions. In aging men, visceral fat produces more of the enzyme aromatase, which coverts testosterone into estrogen. The imbalance has the undesirable side effects of breast enlargement, diminished sex drive and additional weight gain.

It may seem logical that anyone who is overweight will have accumulation of visceral fat. However, studies show that this is not the case. It's not necessarily how much you eat but what you eat. An overweight person with pear shape may have little to no visceral fat. Someone with an apple shape due to abdominal fat will have some degree of visceral fat.

A study done by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition is one of several studies revealing the consuming whole grains lowers insulin resistance and interference with normal metabolic processes. Many people have been led to believe that consuming carbohydrates leads to fat gain. The truth is those who eat complex carbs such as fresh fruit, vegetables and whole grains promote weight loss and reduce the risk of disease. Those who consume a diet of simple carbs such as processed, refined foods high in damaged fats and simple sugars gain weight particularly around the organs.

Paul Jacques, DSc, director of the Nutritional Epidemiology Program at the USDA HNRCA and his team examined the findings in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study and discovered that when complex carbs were added to simple carb diet visceral fat continued to accumulate. The researchers concluded that only by replacing the simple carb diet were the benefits seen.

In an attempt to lose belly fat, many overweight individuals have chosen to restrict calories beyond what is healthy and effective. If the body doesn't get it's daily need for energy from food it will begin to burn muscle and hold on to stored fat. Starving the body is not necessary. Consuming a diet of whole foods is filling and satisfying which will eliminate the need to over eat. Studies have been conducted that have found the following foods some of the best choices:

Apples - when people it an apple 15 minutes before mealtime 187 fewer calorie are consumed.

Avocados - avocados are high in monounsaturated fats which have been found effective at significantly reducing abdominal fat.

Blueberries - a blueberry rich diet increases fat burning around the mid-section. Scientist believe phytonutrients in blueberries effect the way fats and sugars are stored in the body.

Almonds - the combination of protein, fat and fiber in almonds make them very filling and satisfying. They are high in fat-burning monounsaturated oil and their fiber content prevents all their calories from being absorbed.

Salmon - this is great food to combine with an regular exercise program. Researchers have found that the omega 3 fatty acids contained in salmon accelerates fat burning by increasing blood flow to the muscles during a workout.

Oatmeal - whole grain foods are highly effective at targeting and eliminating belly fat.

Beans - are rich in protein and soluble fiber . People who regularly eat beans are less likely to be overweight and more likely to have trim waistlines than those who do not.

Oranges - eating an orange or other foods rich in vitamin C before going to the gym has been found effective at increasing fat burning during a workout. Vitamin C is directly involved in the process that turns fat into energy in the body.


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    • Rusticliving profile image

      Elizabeth Rayen 

      6 years ago from California

      Thank you for great info. A much needed reminder of how important it is to take care of our bodies. Afterall, If our bodies die, where would we live?


    • BethanRose profile image


      7 years ago from South Wales

      This is packed with relative information that I'm sure many people will be grateful for! Voted up and useful!

    • profile image 

      7 years ago

      well it is blueberries and avocados for me - plus apples, oranges and lots of water.

      Thanks for the information - voted up, interesting and useful


    • DimitriLive profile image


      7 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      Good stuff! Thanks.

    • Molly Kathleen profile image

      Molly Kathleen 

      7 years ago from Portsmouth, NH

      Very nice! Informative too! I always try to keep all of the foods listed in my diet...why not? Above all else, they are simply delicious! :D Great Hub!

    • Jlava73 profile image

      Jennifer Vasconcelos 

      7 years ago from Cyberspace and My Own World

      Very Interesting information!

    • DeborahNeyens profile image

      Deborah Neyens 

      7 years ago from Iowa

      Great, informative article. I am one of those people with a BMI in the healthy range who carries all of my fat around my middle section. I'm adding all the foods you listed to my grocery list. And then I'm going to hit the gym!

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 

      7 years ago from Deep South, USA

      This is a very good hub with important information of which many of us need to be aware.

      I'm already eating the right types of food, but my age (68) and limited mobility make it more difficult for me to lose weight than when I was younger and more active. Also, I must take a statin to control my cholesterol level.

      Therefore, last week my doctor recommended that I count calories, measure portions and learn to eat small meals. An online program that automatically counts my calories and provides nutritional data for the food items I input makes it easier. I'm combining light strength training for the physically challenged with this new "lighter" plan of eating. I look forward to the new eating mode and exercising becoming ingrained habits so I don't have to give them so much thought. As a classic "apple" shape, any extra pounds I gain go straight to my midriff, and I don't need the belly fat, do I?


    • blairtracy profile image


      7 years ago from Canada

      Great hub. A very informative read.

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 

      7 years ago from Jamaica

      Steven, this is a very well presented article. Many people starve themselves thinking they will lose weight that way and only end up hurting themselves.

      Avocado also soothe the stomach and make you feel fuller. The other night when I was going to bed I felt a bit queasy in the stomach, I really was hungry but did not want to eat before bed so I had one slice of avocado and the queasiness went. On top of that I felt like I actually ate something.


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