The Dangers of Visceral and Subcutaneous Fat and Simple Exercises That Can Rid Your Body of Both

Fat accumulated in the lower body (the pear shape) is subcutaneous, while fat in the abdominal area (the apple shape) is visceral. Where fat ends up is influenced by several factors, including heredity and hormones. As the evidence against abdominal fat mounts, researchers and clinicians are trying to measure it, correlate it with health risks, and monitor changes that occur with age and overall weight gain or loss.

The fat you can pinch is subcutaneous fat. The fat inside your belly (the visceral fat) can be seen and measured, but not pinched.

Both subcutaneous and visceral fat, as well as being energy stores, also have endocrine functions. They release hormones and proteins such as leptin, adiponectin, IL-6, TNF-α and angiotensin, which help regulate other organs and processes in our bodies. However, the hormones and proteins secreted by visceral fat are thought to be more pro-inflammatory than subcutaneous fat.

This is one reason excess visceral fat is more strongly associated with metabolic disease (i.e., insulin resistance & type 2 diabetes) and cardiovascular disease than excess subcutaneous fat. The proximity of visceral fat to the portal vein (a vein that carries blood directly to the liver) is another hypothesis why excess visceral fat has greater negative effects on health.

Men are much more likely to store fat as visceral fat whereas women are more likely to store it as subcutaneous fat. This is mainly due to sex hormone differences, but once women reach menopause, it is slowly reversed and they become more inclined to store it as visceral fat.

With visceral fat, it’s no different to losing body fat from anywhere else on your body. The only difference is that losing visceral fat can improve metabolic and inflammatory health markers more than losing subcutaneous fat, evidenced by liposuction (which only removes subcutaneous fat) not having much effect on these health parameters.

Leading an active lifestyle along with a healthy, well-balanced diet is the best way to reduce many body fat. Some studies have shown that high-intensity exercise is beneficial for fat loss and specifically visceral fat.

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