Creasy: Work to get rid of dangerous visceral fat

February 26, 2014 

The high prevalence of overweight and obese individuals in Georgia is a fact that many of us hear about on a regular basis via all forms of media.

What is often left unreported, however, is that the location of the extra fat we carry on our bodies can put us at higher or lower risk for chronic diseases.

Research has shown that excess fat around the abdominal area increases risk for serious health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, fatty liver, and cancer of the colon, breast and pancreas.

Many of us have “pinched an inch” on our waist, but the fat underneath our abdominal muscles, known as visceral fat, is the fat that we should be more concerned about.

Visceral fat surrounds our internal organs and secretes proteins and other substances that negatively impact our health. Some of these proteins, known as cytokines, can increase inflammation in the body and may contribute to occurrence of heart attacks and strokes. Resistin, a hormone released by visceral fat, can contribute to insulin resistance, which increases risk for pre-diabetes and diabetes.

Are you curious to know if you carry excess visceral fat? Central obesity can easily be determined by calculating your waist-to-hip or waist-to-height ratio. The waist-to-hip ratio is calculated by dividing your waist size in inches by your hip size in inches. A ratio greater than 0.9 for males and 0.85 for females indicates excess visceral fat.

Waist-to-height ratio is calculated by dividing your waist size in inches by your height in inches. A ratio higher than 0.5 suggests that a person is carrying too much fat around their internal organs.

Even if you are normal weight, you may still be carrying an unhealthy level of visceral fat, so do not rely on body weight or body mass index alone to determine your metabolic health.

Although central obesity poses a serious health risk, you can reduce visceral fat through regular exercise and improved nutritional practices.

Aerobic exercise is one of the most effective forms of physical activity for eliminating excess fat.

Gradually working up to 30 minutes of aerobic activity, such as biking, walking or swimming at least five days a week will put you well on your way to improving your health.

Reducing your daily caloric intake and consuming nutrient dense foods that are low in added sugars and solid fats will also help you boost visceral fat loss and will aid in healthy weight maintenance.

Rebecca Creasy is the Houston County Extension agent for food and nutrition and family and consumer sciences. Contact her at 478-987-2028 or beccac@uga.edu.

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