Is excess visceral fat affecting your health? Visceral body fat, also known as “hidden” fat, is fat stored deep inside the belly, wrapped around the organs, including the liver and intestines. It makes up about one tenth of all the fat stored in the body.

Most fat is stored underneath the skin and is known as subcutaneous fat. That is the fat that is visible and that you can feel. The rest of the fat in the body is hidden. That is visceral fat.

Visceral fat makes the belly stick out or gives a person an “apple” shape. It also produces chemicals and hormones that can be toxic to the body.

Visceral fat produces more toxic substances than subcutaneous fat, so it is more dangerous. Even in thin people, having visceral fat carries a range of health risks.

What Causes Visceral Fat?

Fat gets stored when you consume too many calories and have too little physical activity. Some people tend to store fat around their belly rather than on the hips because of their genes.

In women, getting older can change where the body stores fat. Especially after menopause, women’s muscle mass gets less and their fat increases. As women age, they are more likely to develop more visceral fat in the belly, even if they do not put on weight.

In men, age and genetics also play a role in developing visceral fat. Drinking alcohol can also lead to more belly fat in men.

What are the Health Risks of Visceral Fat?

Having visceral fat in the belly is a sign of metabolic syndrome, a collection of disorders that include high blood pressure, obesity, high cholesterol and insulin resistance. Together, these increase the risk of stroke, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.

Having too much visceral fat in the belly can also cause: dementia, cancer, asthma, liver disease, gallbladder disease and gout, fertility problems, lower back pain, and osteoarthritis

How to Reduce Visceral Fat?

The best way to reduce visceral fat is through losing weight and diet. Visceral fat responds better to diet and exercise than fat on the hips. Regular exercise can also stop visceral fat from coming back. Studies show medication is not as effective in reducing visceral fat as exercise. Liposuction does not work to remove visceral fat either.

Even though you cannot change your genetics, hormones or your age, you can reduce your risk of disease by: exercising for at least 30 minutes every day (eg: brisk walking, cycling, aerobic exercise and strength training), eating a healthy diet, not smoking, reducing sugary drinks and getting enough sleep.

(Source: Health Direct)


“Visceral fat releases inflammatory chemicals called cytokines that promote inflammation & damage blood vessels & tissues.  It’s the riskiest form of fat to have. If you’re female and have a waist size of 35+ inches or a male with a waist of 40+, you have too much,” says Kristie Leong M.D.