Simply put, visceral fat is what the doctor would call your belly fat. Yes, your paunch or all that excess fat you hold around your midsection is called visceral fat. It surrounds your abdominal cavity and therefore also envelops many of your vital organs like the liver, pancreas, and intestines. As opposed to subcutaneous fat underneath your skin, visceral fat is set in deeper. You may not look fat but may hold a great degree of this kind of fat around your organs. Worse still, while you can zap away subcutaneous fat with methods like liposuction, there are no shortcuts to getting rid of visceral fat. Belly fat is mostly composed of both visceral and subcutaneous fat, so if you’re packing more in the middle, you have a lot to worry about.
Visceral fat predisposes you to a lot of serious health hazards like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Reduction in visceral adipose tissue (VAT) improves insulin sensitivity and blood pressure, while weight loss reduces serum triglycerides and bad (LDL) cholesterol. It also increases your good (HDL) cholesterol.1
Excess visceral fat is considered harmful mainly due to its location which is near the portal vein, which carries blood from the intestinal area to the liver. Visceral fat is directly linked with higher total cholesterol and LDL or bad cholesterol, lower HDL or good cholesterol, and insulin resistance because the harmful substances released by visceral fat like free fatty acids enter the portal vein and travel to the liver where the blood lipids are produced. Visceral fat is also learned to send out immune system chemicals called cytokines which are linked to the increased risk for cardiovascular diseases.2
So now that you know the potential dangers of visceral fat, you should also know how to minimize it.
1. Eat Right As The First Step
The rules for burning visceral fat are quite similar to that of losing weight. You know the drill: avoid fatty foods, junk foods, refined carbohydrates and include more fruits, vegetables, and proteins in your diet. According to a study, regular consumption of sugary drinks also increases liver and visceral fat.3
id="foods-that-help-burn-visceral-fat">2. Foods That Help Burn Visceral Fat
Pearl Barley To The Rescue
Smart meal planning and simple food swaps can lessen your reserves of visceral fat. If you swap rice with pearl barley, it can make a difference to your visceral fat stores. According to a study on Japanese men, this simple replacement significantly reduced serum concentrations of LDL (bad cholesterol) and total cholesterol. Pearl barley’s high β-glucan content also reduced visceral fat area.4
id="2.-aloe-vera-gel,-ahoy!">Aloe Vera Gel, Ahoy!
The phytosterols in aloe vera gel also help reduce the amount of visceral fat and high blood sugar. In obese animal models with type 2 diabetes, it was observed that after 44 days of administering aloe vera gel’s phytosterols, their total abdominal fat tissues were significantly lower.5
Can Green Coffee Bean help?
Green coffee bean extract is a rage among gymaholics and fitness trainers. Why? It inhibits fat absorption and activates fat metabolism in the liver. According to a study on mice that were fed a diet containing green coffee bean extract, it was found that it reduced visceral fat as well as body weight. So if you don’t want to put in too much effort, popping some green coffee bean extract capsules might be one of the best ways to get rid of visceral belly fat.6
id="4.-how-about-some-green-tea?">How About Some Green Tea?
Green tea can also be a magical elixir for reducing visceral fat. The major green tea polyphenol, epigallocatechin-3-gallate, has been observed to inhibit obesity, metabolic syndrome, and fatty liver disease in high-fat–fed mice.7
3. The Right Exercise Game Plan
When it comes to burning off the deadly fat you can’t see, aerobic exercises might be your best bet. It works better than resistance training. According to a study, aerobic training was more successful than resistance training or a combination of the two. Aerobic training leads to significant reduction in visceral fat, liver fat, and total abdominal fat.8
Research suggests that aerobic exercises with at least 10 METs (1 MET or metabolic equivalent is the amount of oxygen a person consumes or the energy expended per unit of body weight during 1 minute of rest) into hours per week can get you to burning visceral fat. Confused? Aerobic exercises with 10 METs or more include brisk walking, light jogging, rope jumping, calisthenics and the like. However, researchers also found that there is a dose-response relationship between aerobic exercise and visceral fat reduction in obese people without metabolism-related disorders. The more consistent effort you put in, the better your chances of getting rid of deep-seated visceral fat.9
In another four-month study on pre-adolescent obese kids, it was observed that medium to high-intensity physical activity for 40 minutes, five days a week, yielded great results. Not only did it cut their health risks, total body fat mass and body fat, it also reduced the accumulation of visceral adipose tissue (VAT).10
4. You May Need Some More Sleep
There is a strong correlation between sleep and visceral fat. If you get insufficient sleep or have sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, you may feel sleepy or fatigued during the day. This may lead you to eat more to make up for the lack of energy and store more subcutaneous and visceral fat. It also alters your glucose metabolism.11 According to a study, it was observed that sleep apnea patients had a significantly greater amount of visceral fat in comparison to obese subjects. Indices of sleep-disordered breathing were found to be positively correlated with visceral fat. So now you know that it’s more than just beauty sleep, right?12
Getting rid of visceral fat can be summarized in three easy steps–eat, sleep and exercise well. Good luck with the effort!
|↑1||Sowers, James R. “Obesity as a cardiovascular risk factor.” The American journal of medicine 115, no. 8 (2003): 37-41.|
|↑2||Abdominal fat and what to do about it. Harvard.|
|↑3||Maersk, Maria, Anita Belza, Hans Stødkilde-Jørgensen, Steffen Ringgaard, Elizaveta Chabanova, Henrik Thomsen, Steen B. Pedersen, Arne Astrup, and Bjørn Richelsen. “Sucrose-sweetened beverages increase fat storage in the liver, muscle, and visceral fat depot: a 6-mo randomized intervention study.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 95, no. 2 (2012): 283-289.|
|↑4||Shimizu, Chikako, Makoto Kihara, Seiichiro Aoe, Shigeki Araki, Kazutoshi Ito, Katsuhiro Hayashi, Junji Watari, Yukikuni Sakata, and Sachie Ikegami. “Effect of high β-glucan barley on serum cholesterol concentrations and visceral fat area in Japanese men—a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial.” Plant foods for human nutrition 63, no. 1 (2008): 21-25.|
|↑5||Misawa, Eriko, Miyuki Tanaka, Kouji Nomaguchi, Muneo Yamada, Tomohiro Toida, Mitsunori Takase, Keiji Iwatsuki, and Teruo Kawada. “Administration of phytosterols isolated from Aloe vera gel reduce visceral fat mass and improve hyperglycemia in Zucker diabetic fatty (ZDF) rats.” Obesity research & clinical practice 2, no. 4 (2008): 239-245.|
|↑6||Shimoda, Hiroshi, Emi Seki, and Michio Aitani. “Inhibitory effect of green coffee bean extract on fat accumulation and body weight gain in mice.” BMC complementary and alternative medicine 6, no. 1 (2006): 1.|
|↑7||Bose, Mousumi, Joshua D. Lambert, Jihyeung Ju, Kenneth R. Reuhl, Sue A. Shapses, and Chung S. Yang. “The major green tea polyphenol,(-)-epigallocatechin-3-gallate, inhibits obesity, metabolic syndrome, and fatty liver disease in high-fat–fed mice.” The Journal of nutrition 138, no. 9 (2008): 1677-1683.|
|↑8||Slentz, Cris A., Lori A. Bateman, Leslie H. Willis, A. Tamlyn Shields, Charles J. Tanner, Lucy W. Piner, Victoria H. Hawk et al. “Effects of aerobic vs. resistance training on visceral and liver fat stores, liver enzymes, and insulin resistance by HOMA in overweight adults from STRRIDE AT/RT.” American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism 301, no. 5 (2011): E1033-E1039.|
|↑9||Ohkawara, K., S. Tanaka, M. Miyachi, K. Ishikawa-Takata, and I. Tabata. “A dose–response relation between aerobic exercise and visceral fat reduction: systematic review of clinical trials.” International journal of obesity 31, no. 12 (2007): 1786-1797.|
|↑10||Owens, Scott, Bernard Gutin, Jerry Allison, S. H. A. R. O. N. Riggs, Michael Ferguson, M. A. R. K. Litaker, and W. I. L. L. I. A. M. Thompson. “Effect of physical training on total and visceral fat in obese children.” Medicine and science in sports and exercise 31 (1999): 143-148.|
|↑11||Knutson, Kristen L., Karine Spiegel, Plamen Penev, and Eve Van Cauter. “The metabolic consequences of sleep deprivation.” Sleep medicine reviews11, no. 3 (2007): 163-178.|
|↑12||Vgontzas, Alexandros N., Dimitris A. Papanicolaou, Edward O. Bixler, Kenneth Hopper, Angela Lotsikas, Huong-Mo Lin, Anthony Kales, and George P. Chrousos. “Sleep apnea and daytime sleepiness and fatigue: relation to visceral obesity, insulin resistance, and hypercytokinemia.” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 85, no. 3 (2000): 1151-1158.|