July 2022

What is Visceral Fat – Causes and Risks

Young woman measuring waist with tape measure

You may have heard people talk about the dangers of visceral fat, but what is that in the first place? How does it form? What causes it? And is there something you can do to reduce it? Don’t worry, we have you covered.

In the following post, we will give you an overview of visceral fat storage. By the end of it, you will know how to identify if you have visceral fat and what to do about it. Let’s get started.

What is Visceral Fat?

Visceral fat is a type of fat that surrounds your abdominal organs. As opposed to subcutaneous fat, which is found under the skin, visceral fat cannot be felt or seen. It remains hidden deep inside the body and can cause damage due to its proximity to many vital organs.

It is also called intra-abdominal fat or intra-abdominal adipose tissue since it exists within the abdominal cavity. You might hear doctors refer to it as “active fat” because of its ability to affect how your hormones function. This is why visceral fat can lead to serious health problems and should not be overlooked.

What Causes Visceral Fat?

When you have little physical activity coupled with a high-calorie diet, this causes the body to store fat. Some people are more prone to storing fat around their waist and abdomen. It’s worth noting that ageing can change where a person’s body stores fat. And in women, muscle mass decreases and fat increases over time.

Now, eating too many calories is not the only reason for storing excess visceral fat. It turns out that stress plays a role in this. When you are stressed, you make more of a stress hormone called cortisol, which tends to increase visceral fat content in your body.

This is probably one reason why skinny people can have too many visceral fats too.

What Foods Cause Visceral Fat?


  • Processed foods (bread, tinned vegetables, crisps, ready meals and microwave meals, etc.)
  • Candy (gummy bears, M&Ms, Snickers)
  • Dairy
  • Meat (processed meats, beef jerky, pepperoni, deli meats, hot dogs, ham)
  • Trans fats (frozen pizza, doughnuts, French fries, refrigerated dough, etc.)

How to Know If You Have Visceral Fat

Storing more fat in your abdominal cavity translates into abdominal obesity. Since visceral fat cannot be seen, it’s hard to tell how much you truly have.

However, there are several approaches that you can implement to determine whether you have too much visceral fat based on your body shape and other factors.

How do I know if I have visceral fat based on my BMI?

The body mass index (BMI) is a measurement used to determine if an adult’s weight is healthy. It is based on the height and weight of the person being measured. The formula is as follows: the body mass is divided by the square of the body height.

It is estimated that a BMI of 30+ is overweight, which could also suggest that there is extra visceral fat around the belly. If you don’t know how to estimate your BMI, there are online calculators that can get the job done for you.

How to calculate visceral fat levels

To get an idea of how much visceral fat you have and whether you are at risk, you can measure your waist-to-hip ratio. First, you need to take measurements of your waist circumference. For that, you need a tape measure. Place it around your middle waist, just above the belly button.

Do not suck your stomach in. Make sure to raise your clothing before you begin. The tape measure should be straight, not too tight, and even. Breathe in and out like you normally would. Write down the number.

Now, for the hip circumference. Bring the tape measure down toward the widest part of your hips and follow the same tips from above. When you are done, divide the waist size by the hip size. According to the WHO, you are in the healthy range if your result is 0.9 (or less) for men and 0.85 (or less) for women.

Keep in mind that sometimes waist circumference is not an accurate predictor of the risk factor for chronic disease. Some people are generally bigger, but that doesn’t mean their health is compromised in any way.

How to measure visceral fat via an MRI

Truth be told, the only way to accurately diagnose visceral fat is through imaging tests such as MRI and CT scans. They can give you a detailed picture of your fat storage.

However, they are also quite expensive; not to mention, with CT scans, you will be exposed to X-ray radiation. Nobody would order such a test just to check the levels of visceral fat.

But don’t worry. Doctors can usually figure out if you are at risk by taking into consideration your BMI and waist circumference, and sometimes they may run some blood tests just to be sure.

What is the Best Way to Get Rid of Visceral Fat?

Experts agree that the best way to lose visceral fat is to follow a healthy diet paired with regular exercise. The reason is simple. A healthy lifestyle is great for your overall well-being.

Not only will it prevent visceral fats from forming in the future, but it can lower your risk of developing chronic disease, strengthen your muscles, improve your daily performance, and much more.

Healthy balanced food

How can I reduce visceral fat?

If you want to reduce visceral fat but you don’t want to practice strength training to get there, you can opt for an aesthetic visceral fat removal treatment called ReduStim. Taking aim at belly fat, it kills both visceral fat and subcutaneous fat cells. It also works on fat in the hips, buttocks, and calves.

As it helps you achieve visceral fat loss and sculpt your body, it can also lower your risk of cardiovascular disease and liver disease.

What are the Health Risks of Visceral Fat?

Being far from a healthy weight and storing more visceral fat than normal can lead to several issues. In the past, scientists believed that the biggest problem with visceral fat is that it affects cholesterol production by secreting free fatty acids in the liver and the bloodstream.

Today, a notion exists that excess fat (active fat) releases a slew of chemicals, among which is retinol-binding protein 4, that can inflame the body’s tissues, cause insulin resistance, and ultimately lead to:

  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Stroke
  • Heart disease
  • Heart attack
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Alzheimer’s disease

Given the above health problems, having less visceral fat is more than encouraged. If you think you have too much fat that could cause insulin resistance and more damage, perhaps you should think about weight loss. Do talk to your doctor or wellness professionals for advice on reducing visceral fat.


Is visceral fat the same as belly fat?

Belly fat can be divided into two types: subcutaneous, which sits below the skin, and visceral, which surrounds the abdominal organs.

How to tell visceral fat from subcutaneous fat?

Subcutaneous fat is the fat you can feel when you poke your belly. On the other hand, visceral fat is out of reach. It is found around organs like the intestines, pancreas, and liver. It becomes more as you gain weight, but the good news is that it can be reversed when you lose weight.

How to get rid of visceral fat without exercise?

There are several ways to go about this. The first step is weight management. That is, you need to improve your eating habits – consume more protein and fibre, limit sugar, and avoid junk food. A balanced diet goes a long way.

Next, you should get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation is associated with elevated levels of visceral fat and certain health risks. In addition, stay away from alcohol and tobacco. Last but not least, drink plenty of water.

Can visceral fat be removed surgically?

No, visceral fats do not respond to the likes of abdominoplasty and liposuction. This is because fat removal surgery gets rid of fat that sits underneath the skin, but visceral fat is out of reach – wrapped around the organs.

Does weight lifting burn visceral fat?

Yes, weight lifting can help burn visceral fat. The latter is not as stubborn as subcutaneous fat and is the first to go as you start working out. You don’t have to eat a low-fat diet to get better results.

How much visceral fat is normal?

What is considered a normal amount of visceral fat in the body is 10% of the total body fat. People with excess visceral fat are those with a waistline that measures more than 40 inches for men (101 cm) and 35 inches (90 cm) for women. This puts them at risk for different health conditions.

What percentage of body fat is visceral fat?

Visceral fat makes up about 10% of the total body fat in healthy individuals. If you have more visceral fat than normal, you had better take measures.

What foods help burn visceral fats?

Leafy greens and sweet potatoes are good picks, as well as sardines, tofu, red bell peppers, cheese, and milk. Load up on lean meats and reduce carbs.

What kind of exercise helps burn excess visceral fat?

Both cardio (aerobic exercise) and strength training help you burn extra body fat. What matters is that you engage in physical activities regularly.

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