Fat may just seem like a harmless annoyance that we want to get rid of in order to look better in our clothing and swimsuits. However, it has proven to have a massive impact on our health, specifically the fat that we cannot see, called visceral fat. There is another type of fat, subcutaneous fat, and this is the fat that is directly under the skin that we can see and “pinch,” and some is necessary for bodily functions, hormone regulation, and insulation. Visceral fat, also known as excess intra-abdominal adipose tissue accumulation, is the fat that is deep within the torso and lines the heart, liver, and abdominal organs. This type of fat is a key factor in the constellation that makes up metabolic syndrome—insulin resistance, visceral adiposity, hypertension and dyslipidemia. Too much visceral fat can cause myriad health issues, most stemming from its role in inflammatory processes—which are not a good thing, and actually exacerbate early symptoms of disease. For example, it has been studied that visceral fat plays more into cardiovascular disease than does obesity. This is due to the proximity of this fat to your liver. Visceral fat increases LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels and lowers HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels. In time, this creates plaque buildup on the walls of your arteries, leading to increased blood pressure and an increased risk of stroke. This type of fat can also contribute to arthritis, sleep disorders, heart disease, dementia, cancer, type 2 diabetes, depression and many other diseases—scary stuff.
It is all about that little hormone called insulin. Insulin gets released after we eat a high-carbohydrate—or just plain sugary—meals, and then when our body breaks down those carbohydrates into simple sugars. This helps regulate our blood glucose levels, which in turn helps supply us with energy for functions in the brain, tissue and muscles. However, if all of these functions are fulfilled, our body stores the extra glucose as fat. This becomes a big problem in the case of insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is when cells do not respond to insulin and the pancreas is forced to increase production in order to clear the bloodstream of glucose, which eventually can lead to diabetes.
The good news is, there is something you can do about this daunting issue. Since you may not be able to tell where your fat lies, there are ways to check your visceral fat levels and your subcutaneous fat levels, in order to know your risk for diseases associated with high visceral fat levels. Starkel Nutrition uses a bio-electric impedance, or body composition, scale to determine individualized body composition information. This gives the practitioners a general idea of your fat and lean mass percentages as well as your visceral fat class. This helps the practitioners determine a course of treatment to help you the best—every body is different!
Steps to reduce visceral fat—Start Now!
- Reduce sugar and refined carbohydrate intakes / highly processed packaged food
- Remember our insulin chat?! Avoid those spikes in blood sugar
- Consume lots of non-starchy vegetables, fruits, fats, and proteins
- Aim to eat real, high-nutrient-dense foods to balance insulin
- Exercise regularly / Minimize sedentary time
- Resistance training, high intensity interval training, and cardio
- Reduce stress / Meditate / RELAX
- Stress interferes with appetite control, metabolism and sleep
- Get quality sleep
- Good rest resets our appetite, stress hormones, and metabolism
*Note: talk to Brooke about the Metabolic Reset and Weight Loss Program!
Yours in Health,
Bastyr University student intern
Information obtained from http://www.prevention.com/weight-loss/flat-belly-diet/flat-belly-diet-subcutaneous-and-visceral-belly-fat and http://draxe.com/visceral-fat/ retrieved May 2016.