Visceral fat is something that plagues millions of Americans.
However, many do not know what exactly it is, nor how to lose it.
Having high levels of visceral fat can be risky for health, including having an impact on diabetes and heart health.
This article will investigate the connections between diabetes and visceral fat and will summarize what you can do to lose visceral fat.
What is visceral fat?
Visceral fat, also known as intra-abdominal fat, is fat deep inside the abdominal cavity.
This is the kind of body fat that is packed between the internal organs of the lower abdomen, including around the intestines, stomach, liver, pancreas, and kidneys.
Visceral fat differs from the fat that is just below the skin, which is known as subcutaneous fat.
Subcutaneous fat can be detected by gently pinching your skin away from your body.
It is mostly found around the hips, thighs, bottom, and belly.
However, visceral fat can’t be seen directly from the outside—it is found in and around the belly and abdomen.
Visceral fat should typically make up about 10% of a person’s overall body fat. As overall fat increases, the amount of visceral fat usually increases proportionally.
However, a number of factors can cause increases in visceral fat beyond the levels that would be expected.
An excess of visceral fat is known as abdominal obesity.
Having too much visceral fat can be dangerous to your health.
Does sugar cause visceral fat?
While many foods and behaviors can contribute to an excess of visceral fat, sugar intake is indeed a significant factor.
A 2020 study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology found that a diet that included added sugar and sugar-sweetened beverages was associated with increases in visceral fat.
The study found that consuming 50 grams or more of added sugar per day was associated with higher volumes of visceral fat, in addition to higher body mass index (BMI) scores.
It also established that drinking sugar-sweetened beverages was correlated with higher volumes of visceral fat as well as greater amounts of fat found around the heart.
If you’re trying to lose visceral fat, consider avoiding foods that have added sugar or refined carbohydrates.
What is the main cause of visceral fat?
A calorie imbalance and poor diet are the main causes of excessive visceral fat and abdominal obesity.
Added sugar, sugar-sweetened beverages, refined carbohydrates, and calorie-dense, fatty foods are major contributors to an increase in visceral fat.
A sedentary lifestyle contributes to visceral fat because more calories are coming in than are going out. Your metabolism tends to slow without consistent exercise.
Other secondary factors are also significant contributors.
Not getting enough sleep, and being under too much stress for a prolonged period of time also play a role in the body storing excessive visceral fat.
Just like acute stress, sleep deprivation increases the level of cortisol (the stress hormone) in your body. This in turn increases how much visceral fat the body stores.
Overly processed foods, unhealthy hydrogenated vegetable oils, and trans fats are also likely culprits.
How do you get rid of visceral fat if you have diabetes?
Research has found that visceral fat is a primary determinant of how much insulin resistance a person experiences.
Research also hints that having too much visceral fat is associated with both type 2 diabetes and prediabetes.
Excessive visceral fat can also lead a person’s body to have excessive inflammatory responses, which can have a number of negative health implications.
The abdominal obesity that comes with having high levels of visceral fat is also implicated in high cholesterol, high blood sugar (hyperglycemia), heart disease, hypertension, and a higher risk of stroke.
Because of this, many medical providers will recommend that people with diabetes try to reduce excessive visceral fat if they have it.
Fortunately, people with diabetes can reduce the amount of visceral fat in their bodies. Some great first steps to take are:
Eat a healthy diet
Watching calories is important, but so is adding protein (particularly lean proteins) and fiber, especially from vegetables, beans, and legumes. Limit or eliminate trans fats, added sugar, sugar-sweetened beverages, refined carbohydrates, and overly processed foods. Add healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil.
Add more movement
Exercising consistently for at least 30 minutes each day makes a huge difference. Cardio activities like jogging and resistance activities like weightlifting both help to burn calories and raise your resting metabolic rate.
Drink enough water
Staying hydrated is important and helps to reduce thirst that might be otherwise quenched by unhealthy options like sodas or excessive alcohol.
Get more high-quality sleep
Getting enough sleep is important to keeping stress hormone levels in a healthy range.
Manage stress levels
Prolonged periods of stress can have many negative effects, including causing the body to hold on to excessive visceral fat. Breathing exercises, getting out in nature, meditation, or taking a break with friends or family can help to manage stress hormones.
Keep blood sugars in range
In addition to the myriad health benefits of staying in range, people generally feel better if there aren’t too many high or low blood sugars, meaning it’ll be easier to stay on track with other health goals.
Does metformin reduce visceral fat?
Many people with diabetes will be prescribed the oral drug metformin.
Metformin is used to help keep blood sugar levels lower, predominantly in people who have type 2 diabetes or prediabetes.
A 2017 human and animal study found that taking metformin did help to reduce visceral fat volume in some circumstances.
Since then, a number of studies have confirmed that taking metformin as prescribed can help people who are overweight or obese to lose weight.
The greatest weight-loss benefits for people taking metformin come when they have also incorporated more moderate-intensity physical activity and made healthy dietary changes at the same time.
If you’ve been prescribed metformin or a similar drug, it’s important to talk with your doctor or medical provider to get guidance about making significant changes to your diet or beginning exercise.
What foods burn visceral fat?
If you’re trying to burn visceral fat, it’s a good idea to cook as many meals at home as possible. This gives you more control over ingredients and portion sizes.
Whether making food at home or going out, there are a handful of foods that help the body to shed excess visceral fat.
Some great foods to consider include:
Legumes and beans
Beans and legumes are high in protein and have lower net carbs because they have plenty of fiber.
Salmon, sardines, and other fatty fish
In addition to being a great source of protein, the high levels of omega-3 fatty acids found in fish are known to be healthy and are hypothesized to help reduce visceral fat.
Dark leafy greens
Greens like spinach, chard, and kale are great sources of micronutrients and fiber.
Eating fermented foods is a good way to help the body reduce excess visceral fat. This is because they can help support the gut’s microbiome. Gut health plays a key role in metabolism and the storage of fat.
Avocado and extra virgin olive oil
These are healthier sources of fat than refined vegetable oils and processed trans fats. These healthy fats are satisfying and easy to add to a diet.
Nuts are good sources of protein, healthy fats, and fiber – all important to burning visceral fat. But remember that a little goes a long way, as nuts are dense in calories.
Spices, garlic, onions
As important as they are for flavor, spicing foods and adding pungent flavors like garlic may also help to reduce excess visceral fat, improve cardiac health, and improve gut microbiome health.
It’s important to experiment and see what works best for your body, your energy, and your blood sugar levels.
A nutritionist and your medical provider can also help to evaluate what dietary changes are safe and helpful for your goals.
Visceral fat, also known as intra-abdominal fat, is fat deep inside the abdominal cavity.
Everyone has some visceral fat.
But an excess of visceral fat, also known as abdominal obesity, can be very dangerous to a person’s health. It is associated with heart disease, hypertension, and insulin resistance.
Visceral fat is also associated with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.
A calorie imbalance and poor diet are the main causes of excessive visceral fat and abdominal obesity. Having a diet with too much refined sugar is also a risk factor.
There are benefits to reducing excess visceral fat, and people with diabetes can fight visceral fat through a combination of changes to diet and physical exercise.
Metformin is hypothesized to help burn visceral fat, but it appears to be most effective when taken in combination with a healthy diet and consistent exercise routine.
Finally, there are foods that are known to help burn visceral fat. Cooking at home is a great way to ensure those foods get incorporated into your diet.
With the information and strategies found in this article, you can lose excess visceral fat and better understand the connections between visceral fat and diabetes.