What Is the Difference Between External Belly Fat and Visceral Fat?

In most people, about 90% of body fat is subcutaneous, the kind that lies in a layer just beneath the skin. The remaining 10% is visceral fat. Only abdominal visceral fat is a strong independent predictor of mortality in men.

Obese Man

Obese Man

External belly fat is usually harmless

It produces more particularly beneficial molecules, containing the hormone leptin, which acts on the brain to suppress craving and burn stored fat. There is another hormone produced mainly by subcutaneous fat, which helps protect against diabetes by regulating the processing of fats and sugars; it also reduces inflammation on the linings of blood vessels It is located in between the skin and the outer abdominal wall of the body. It is the skin that can be pinched and this fat is stored just below our skin. This is seen from the outside.

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Visceral fat is found inside the abdomen which wraps the internal organs or viscera like the intestine, liver, and stomach. This fat is not seen from the outside. This fat increases the risk of serious health problems. Visceral fat makes more of the proteins called cytokines, which can activate low-level inflammation, a risk factor for heart disease and other chronic conditions. It also produces a precursor that causes high blood pressure.

How do I know if my belly fat is visceral or subcutaneous?

In most people, about 90% of body fat is external belly fat, the kind that lies in a layer just beneath the skin. When you poke your belly, the fat that feels soft is subcutaneous. The remaining 10% called visceral or intra-abdominal fat lies out of reach, beneath the firm abdominal wall.

Visceral fat isn’t visible, so we don’t always know it’s there. That makes it that much more dangerous. On the other hand, it’s usually prevented. External belly fat is usually less dangerous and has a protective role.

Read Also: Obese Adolescents at Higher Risk for Developing Cancer in Adulthood

How to measure visceral fat?

The conclusive way of measurement is by CT and MRI scans which are not easily available due to their expensiveness and time consumption.

A tape measure is your best home option for keeping tabs on visceral fat. Measure your waistline at the level of the nave, not at the narrowest part of the body, and always measure in the same place. Don’t suck in your gut or pull the tape tight enough to flatten the area.

In women, a waist circumference of 35 inches and In men, of 40 inches or larger is generally supposed to be a sign of excess visceral fat, but that may not apply if your overall body size is large.

The complication of visceral fat:

  • It can cause heart attacks and heart disease.
  • Diabetes due to insulin resistance caused by excess fat in the body
  • A stroke that may lead to paralysis, verbal problems, and vision problems.
  • Breast cancer: A combined analysis of several studies found that premenopausal women with the largest waist size in proportion to their height were at greater risk for breast cancer.
  • Colorectal cancer: People with the most visceral fat have three times the risk of developing colorectal tumors.
  • Alzheimer’s disease: Based on studies, it is found that obesity increases by almost 10 fold the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Asthma: developing asthma due to obesity is also a main concern. It is commonly seen that people who are fat breathe quickly and often while breathing small volumes of air.

Measures of getting rid of visceral fat :

  • Exercise: At least 30 minutes a day (eg, brisk walking or cycling slowly).
  • Diet: A healthy well-balanced diet, vegetables, fruits, without processed sugars.
  • Lifestyle changes- reducing stress, meditation, deep breathing helps reduce stress.
  • Quit smoking
  • Avoid alcohol. It is directly associated with waist circumference and with a higher risk of abdominal obesity in men, but not in women. So avoidance of alcohol reduces visceral fat.

Read Also: Obese Adolescents at Higher Risk for Developing Cancer in Adulthood

Some Frequently asked questions about fat

Is External belly fat in males very dangerous?

No, external belly fat in males is not as dangerous as visceral fat.

Are belly external fat and visceral fat the same?

External belly fat is not the same as visceral fat. They are found in different locations.

What foods reduce visceral fat?

Studies indicate that more calcium and vitamin D in your body may be associated with less visceral fat. So eat leafy greens like collards and spinach. Tofu and sardines are also good picks, as are dairy foods like yogurt, cheese, and milk.

How much visceral fat should a man have?

A useful pointer of having an increased level of visceral fat is a high BMI score (Body Mass Index) and a large waist. So get into a healthy BMI range!

When to visit the doctor?

When your BMI is in the overweight to the obese range.

Do you lose visceral fat first?

Visceral fat is usually the easier fat to burn. Unfortunately, subcutaneous fat is harder to lose. Subcutaneous fat is more visible, but it carries more effort to lose because of the function it serves in your body.

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British Journal of Radiology: “Comparison of 3 T MRI and CT for the measurement of visceral and subcutaneous adipose tissue in humans,”

CDC: “Diabetes and Asian Americans,” “Knowing is Not Enough—Act on Your Family Health History,” “Body Mass Index (BMI).”

Cleveland Clinic: “Weight Management & Obesity,” “Physical Examination.”

Diabetes. co: “Visceral Fat (Active Fat).”

Endocrine Society: “Metabolic Risk Guideline Resources,” “The Dangers Of Visceral Fat.”

Harvard Health Publishing: “Aiming for belly fat,” “Big thighs may be wise.”

Johns Hopkins Medicine: “The Skinny on Visceral Fat.”

The American Journal of Medicine: “Upper Body Subcutaneous Fat Is Associated with Cardiometabolic Risk Factors.”

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “Calcium and vitamin D supplementation is associated with decreased abdominal visceral adipose tissue in overweight and obese adults.

The Journal of Nutrition: “Greater Fructose Consumption Is Associated with Cardiometabolic Risk Markers and Visceral Adiposity in Adolescents.



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