On the surface, fat is easy to see.
It’s right there rolling on waists and layering thighs.
But in many ways, it’s the fat you can’t see, lurking beneath the surface, that is much more dangerous. This is the visceral (metabolically active) fat while subcutaneous fat is just underneath the skin and is easy to grab in a pinch test. It’s not great either but has less far-reaching health implications than its nasty cousin.
Visceral fat causes thickened waists and `beer’ pots, particularly among post-menopausal women and middle aged men. Internally, it’s wrapping around the heart and other body organs, heating them and impairing their optimum function.
It’s also increasing inflammation which is the start of so many diseases and ailments. It boosts the risk of Type 2 diabetes, fatty liver, high blood pressure, heart disease and a range of cancers.
It’s also playing havoc with our hormones, disturbing the delicate balance in metabolic function.
The bad news is that the more you have of this type of fat, the greater its impact. It’s extremely dangerous for your health and visceral fat should be the primary concern.
If it’s not apparent in the mirror, the best way to measure the amount of visceral fat is to measure your waist. For men the risk factors increase when the waist is more than 94cm and over 80cm for women.
The cause of this nasty fat is insulin resistance because when insulin levels are high the body can’t access stored fat for fuel. We used to need this stored fat for times of famine but now we are more prone to feast than famine.
The good news is that lifestyle changes can gradually see the visceral fat melting away, primarily by correcting insulin resistance.
There’s no reason women have to gain girth weight with menopause. Nothing happens to make people gain fat they haven’t created themselves. If you don’t exercise your muscle tissue will decrease, your bone density will weaken and if you drink a lot of alcohol and eat a lot of processed food, the visceral fat is likely to increase.
But when feeding your body with all of the nutrition it needs, liver health improves, the healthy fat stored around your middle starts to shed, your blood pressure drops, cholesterol lowers, the gut functions better and you even sleep more peacefully.
For every 5kg of fat you lose, you’ll take 20kg of pressure from each knee and hip. That alone, is motivation to start easing that pressure by losing visceral fat.