Dr Zoe Williams discusses visceral fat on This Morning
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Science has inextricably linked weight and the risk for premature death. Studies have showed that the shape of a body, notably whether it is apple or pair shaped, could affect the risk of mortality differently. Visceral fat, which sits around the belly, is associated with a higher risk of death. This is because internal fat deposits wrap around the abdominal organs deep inside the body, making them a health hazard. Christina Mamada, nutritionist at Vitl, explains how different types of fat – and how they are distributed on the body – can affect your health.
A study that looked at data on more than two and a half million participants with data on body fat and mortality, found that people with a larger waist had a higher risk or mortality than those with larger thigh and hip circumferences.
The findings, published in the BMJ, showed a large waist was consistently associated with a higher risk of all-cause mortality. Researcher found that each four-inch increase in waist size was associated with an 11 percent increase in risk for premature death.
Christina explained: “Visceral fat is, specifically body fat that is stored in the abdominal cavity, and as such means that it is found near a number of vital organs, including the liver intestines and stomach.
“Compared to subcutaneous far, visceral fat is more dangerous because of its location near vital organs and the protein it secretes. It is for this reason that a larger high or thigh circumference is less cause for concern than a larger wait circumference.”
READ MORE: How to lose visceral fat: The simple and free daily activity proven to reduce belly fat
Waist size is an indicator of the amount of visceral fat, or fat stored in the abdomen around the internal organs.
Christina noted: “Too much fat can raise your chances of serious medical issues, such as increased risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer.”
Although is not yet understood how visceral fat makes the body resistant to insult, one theory suggests the liver and muscles become less sensitive to insulin when there are higher circulating levels of fatty acids.
Christina added: “It is also suspected researchers that visceral fat secretes a type of binding protein, retinol binding protein 4, which contributes to insulin resistance, increasing the risk of diabetes.”
Hips and thighs
The analysis suggested people who carry fat in their thighs and hips may be at lower risk of heart disease and diabetes, with small changes in waist to hip ratio indicating higher mortality risk.
Christina explained: “Fat stored in the hips and thighs is less likely to be visceral, which is why having larger hips and thighs is associated with lower mortality risk, when compared with the waist.”
The study found increased fat around the thighs was found to be associated with an 18 percent lower risk of all-cause mortality. Researchers believe this is mainly due to the fact that larger thigh circumferences tends to be an indication of muscle mass, which protects the vital organs.
The study also found a four-inch increase in a woman’s hip circumference was associated with a 10 percent lower risk of death.
Key exercise tips
Christina notes that, as with most types of body fat, visceral far can be reduced through regular exercise and a healthy diet.
She added: “Still it is important to highlight the difference between losing weight and losing visceral fat. Unfortunately, there is no gold standard that makes you lose weight solely around your waist and vital organs. This is because each individual has different genetic tendencies that affect the place they are most likely to store or lose weight.
Many studies have suggest that low-carb diets are more effective at reducing visceral fat than low fat diets.
Furthermore ketogenic diets drastically reduce carb intake and replace it with fat, putting the body in a natural metabolic state called ketosis.
Spot exercises, such as sit ups, can tighten abdominal muscles but won’t get at visceral fat.
Studies have also shown that aerobic activity (brisk walking) and strength training (exercising with weights) can help trim visceral fat or prevent its growth
Christina noted: “Exercising for 30 minutes each day (which can be something as simple as going on a walk or jog), reducing your intake and highly processed snacks, monitoring your saturated (bad) fat intake found in meat, butter and sweets, and maintaining an overall healthy diet risk in whole grains, fruit, vegetable, oily fish, legumes and lean protein, will al contribute to reducing visceral fat.
“In other words, losing some weight is not necessarily linked to loss of visceral fat; it can be attributed to the loss of subcutaneous fat, loss of muscle (if you follow a sedentary life), and of course, to the excessive loss of water weight, at the beginning of weight loss.”
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