Visceral fat is essentially an accumulation of intra-abdominal adipose tissue which surrounds the major internal organs, including the liver, pancreas, kidneys, and intestine and functions as an autonomous organ, releasing hormones and inflammatory chemicals called cytokines.
Visceral fat is not visible and is sometimes characterized as dangerous, because it plays a discreet and potentially dangerous role in how it affects the way hormones operate. Therefore, it can contribute to a number of harmful health conditions, such as heart disease, dementia and cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, metabolic syndrome and several autoimmune diseases.
What kind of fat do we store?
Some people have an increased tendency to accumulate visceral fat rather than subcutaneous. Subcutaneous fat is the one that can be felt just below the skin while the fat inside the abdomen, where the organs are located, is the intra-abdominal fat, namely the visceral fat.
Specific mechanisms that are responsible for proportionally increasing visceral fat storage include consuming too many calories (“positive energy balance”), sex hormones, cortisol production, growth hormones and dietary fructose.
Visceral fat and health
Storing higher amounts of visceral fat is associated with increased health risks, including type 2 diabetes.
Deposition of large amounts of visceral fat is known to be associated with insulin resistance, which can lead to glucose intolerance and type 2 diabetes.
Increased visceral fat also increases the risk of developing many serious long-term, life-threatening medical conditions. These include: Coronary heart disease, breast cancer, colon cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue, depression, arthritis, sexual dysfunction, sleep disorders.
Visceral fat and hormones
Hormones are the body’s messengers, sending instructions from one area to another so that the organs can properly perform their necessary functions. When hormone levels are disturbed, the ability to burn fat may be reduced. Hormonal imbalance that is directly related to the amount of visceral fat in a person concerns several hormones with a predominant disorder of cortisol, the hormone of stress, as well as insulin which is released mainly in response to carbohydrates, estrogens that are well known to help with weight gain and testosterone.
So the only way to be healthy by reducing body fat and especially visceral is with hormonal balance and proper control of lifestyle. Good sleep, proper and balanced diet, regular exercise and proper stress management help to address the problem of visceral fat.
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