How to reduce visceral fat – the 4 simple changes to make
Dr Zoe Williams discusses visceral fat on This Morning
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Visceral fat is different from subcutaneous fat which lies underneath the skin. Visceral fat is active, producing chemical messenger molecules that switch on the immune response and cause chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation underpins the development of life-threatening conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer and dementia, so it’s important to avoid it at all costs. Express.co.uk chatted to Dr Deborah Lee from Dr Fox Online Pharmacy to find out how to reduce visceral fat in 4 simple steps.
Increasing amounts of visceral fat increase the risk of premature death.
However, it’s not just down to visceral fat, waist circumference is also linked to raised mortality – meaning subcutaneous fat is also a factor.
A third important factor is the amount of fat stored in the liver.
Dr Lee explained: “Increased visceral fat increases your risk of many cancers including colon (bowel) cancer, postmenopausal breast cancer, and cancer of the uterus, kidney and pancreas.”
Most UK adults gain weight between the ages of 20 and 70 years, with women on average women gaining 19.2 pounds and men gaining 14.2 pounds.
Over the same time period, men increase their amount of visceral fat by 200 percent, but women increase theirs by a whopping 400 percent.
This is a surefire way to cut your life expectancy, so it’s important to keep an eye on your weight and visceral fat and reduce it if it is too high.
Dr Lee stressed: “Reducing visceral fat can be viewed as a potential treatment to help increase longevity.”
Factors that increase the risk of visceral fat include:
- Alcohol – Moderate alcohol consumption is associated with a redistribution of body fat, with an increase in visceral fat.
- Smoking – Visceral fat is linked to the number of cigarettes smoked – the higher the number of pack-years smoked, the stronger the link.
- Medication – such as protease inhibitors, which are anti-HIV drugs
- Bulimia – This is linked to increased visceral fat in females, perhaps because they also have high cortisol levels
- Childbirth – Parous women (those who have had children) tend to have more visceral fat than nulliparous women (those who have not had children.)
- Reproductive hormones – These are thought to play a part in the redistribution of fat. At perimenopause, women often find they become more apple-shaped, which correlates with low estrogen levels. Taking HRT is associated with lower levels of visceral fat.
- Muscle wasting – Muscle is also lost with ageing. 60 to 69-year-old women tend to have an average of 13 pounds less muscle (fat-free mass) than women aged 20 to 29.
- Not breastfeeding – Visceral fat is lower in women who have breastfed their babies.
How to reduce visceral fat
It’s perfectly possible to get rid of visceral fat, but it takes hard work and determination.
Unfortunately, simply removing it by liposuction is ineffective, so you’ll have to do it through lifestyle changes.
Here are 4 ways to reduce your visceral fat, according to Dr Lee:
Take more physical exercise
The minimum required for health is 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise (MIT).
Dr Lee explained: “This is exercise just sufficient to make you feel just out of breath and a bit hot and sweaty. Brisk walking, jogging, cycling and swimming are good options.
“However, for best results to shift visceral fat, high-intensity exercise (HIT) is recommended.
“This is an exercise where your heart is beating at 80 to 90 percent above its resting heart rate for a period of time.
“HIT can be done in the gym, or for example, by running or cycling. The idea is to have a burst of activity, followed by a short rest, and then another burst of activity.”
Take a look at these free NHS YouTube videos about HIT
The doctor added: “Don’t sit still for long periods without moving and get in the habit of walking or cycling everywhere.
“Get busy – do the housework, clean the garden, get out in the garden. Take the stairs, not the lift.
“Walk every day – for example, take phone calls while walking. You don’t necessarily need to join an expensive gym to shift visceral fat.”
Eat a healthy diet
You need to eat a nutritious, well-balanced diet, full of fresh foods, fruit and vegetables.
A good suggestion, that ticks all the boxes, is the Mediterranean diet, according to Dr Lee.
This includes eating more fibre to help you feel fuller for longer, reduce your appetite and reduce the absorption of cholesterol from the gut.
You should eat less processed foods such as ready meals, fatty meats, ham and sausages, high sugar cereals, cakes, biscuits, pastries, sweets, and fizzy drinks.
These foods are often high in saturated fat, sugar and salt, are high in calories and have little nutritional value.
Try to avoid trans fats and opt for unsaturated fats instead, which are found in vegetable oils such as olive oil, avocado, sunflower, rapeseed, or walnut oils.
Eat healthy carbs such as wholegrain bread, rice and pasta, and avoid white foods.
Increase your intake of omega-3 fats, which are found in fatty fish such as mackerel, herring, and sardines.
Try and reduce your alcohol intake or stop drinking altogether.
Dr Lee said: “Those that drink alcohol tend to have more visceral fat than those who don’t.”
Alcohol is full of calories and contains almost no nutrients, so ditching the booze and opting for lots of water will do the trick.
Get plenty of sleep
Lack of sleep leads to increased levels of cortisol, which is linked to inflammation and IR. Dr Lee said “Sleep deprivation also lowers levels of leptin and ghrelin, which are appetite-regulating hormones.
“Another hormone – growth hormone – is also reduced by lack of sleep. Growth hormone is important for fat-burning and tissue repair.
“Getting seven to nine hours of good quality sleep a night is very likely to help you lose weight, including visceral fat.”
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