Learn why visceral fats can be a symptom of underlying chronic diseases such as diabetes
It's a well-known fact. Studies show that being overweight or obese increases your risk of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes. However, this doesn't mean that slimmer people are unlikely to develop such conditions.
In fact, even if you’re generally trim, you still need to watch out for excess visceral fat, or fat around the internal organs inside the abdominal cavity. Dr Ian Phoon, Associate Consultant from SingHealth Polyclinics—Pasir Ris, a member of the SingHealth group, explained more about this “thin outside, fat inside” phenomenon.
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“Visceral fat is fat that you may not see but accumulates around your organs. Visceral fat is more dangerous since it results in greater insulin resistance compared to subcutaneous fat, or fat under the skin,” said Dr Phoon.
Insulin resistance is when the body produces insulin, but is unable to properly use it to control blood sugar. Glucose (sugar) builds up in the blood, leading to diabetes.
Carrying too much visceral fat poses many serious health problems. Studies have shown that there is a link between these excess fat cells and other chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and even some cancers.
Visceral fat is also commonly known as belly fat. “Although men have lesser overall percentage body fat than women, they tend to accumulate their fat in the abdominal area, while women generally have more fat in their hips and thighs. However, women who have given birth or who have menopause are more prone to fat in the abdomen than other women,” added Dr Phoon.
BMI (body mass index) is one way to determine if you are overweight and gauge your risk of type 2 diabetes. To measure abdominal fat, it is better to use the waist circumference (WC) or the waist-hip ratio (WHR). Measuring our waistlines is a relatively simple but good indicator of how much visceral fat we are carrying.
You are at higher risk of Type 2 diabetes if your waist circumference is: 90 cm (35.5 inches) and greater for men, and 80 cm (31.5 inches) and greater for women.
Diet and exercise is the best way to reduce visceral fat. A well-balanced diet is not only helpful when it comes to weight loss. It also helps reduce the health risks associated with unnecessary weight gain.
Aerobic exercise, combined with a healthy diet, will help in shedding our visceral fat effectively. We should also avoid or limit our alcohol consumption.
Losing weight healthily is most effective in reducing visceral fat. But whether your waistline is 30, 35 or 40 inches, it is recommended that everyone should get at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity each week, and continue to make wise and healthier eating choices to stay healthy and strong.
If you are between the ages of 18 and 39, find out your risk by taking the Diabetes Risk Assessment. Take the first step towards beating diabetes.
Download the HealthHub app on Google Play or Apple Store to access more health and wellness advice at your fingertips.
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This article was last reviewed on
15 Sep 2023
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