Visceral fat is a type of abdominal fat that surrounds vital organs and can lead to serious health complications like stroke, diabetes or certain cancers.
Visceral fat accumulation is determined by genetics and environmental factors; however, a poor diet and lack of exercise can also increase it.
1. Increased Risk of Diabetes
Visceral fat is a type of body fat that accumulates around organs in the abdomen area and it has been linked to chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease. People with high levels of visceral fat have an increased likelihood for all these health issues compared to those with lower amounts.
It is believed that an increased risk of diabetes and other chronic diseases associated with visceral fat can be explained by genetics, environment and lifestyle behaviors. People who have a family history of diabetes (first degree relatives) may have an even higher likelihood of developing the condition.
A study published in Circulation journal revealed that individuals with high visceral fat also experienced inflammation within their cells. They explained this could lead to hardening of arteries, increasing the risk for heart disease and strokes.
They also discovered that those with higher levels of insulin and fructosamine (an artificial glucose substitute) at the start of the study were more likely to develop diabetes over a 7 year period. Furthermore, older age, non-white race, family history of diabetes, systolic blood pressure, and weight gain were all linked with an increased risk for developing diabetes.
Therefore, those with diabetes or prediabetes should have their visceral fat checked and monitored closely. Furthermore, they should be encouraged to shed any extra weight, increase physical activity levels and alter eating habits; these lifestyle modifications will help reduce the likelihood of developing these conditions in the future.
2. Increased Risk of Heart Disease
Maintaining a healthy body weight is the best way to protect your heart and lower the likelihood of developing serious health issues. Excess fat, particularly around your waistline (visceral fat) is known to be an important risk factor for heart disease.
Fat accumulation can restrict blood flow to your heart and other vital organs, leading to serious health conditions like heart attacks or strokes.
According to a study published in Circulation journal, people with excess stomach and hip fat, commonly referred to as visceral fat, have an increased risk of heart failure than thinner individuals. Furthermore, each additional centimetre of abdominal fat increases your likelihood of heart failure by 4 per cent.
Genetics play a role in the development of heart disease, but your lifestyle also contributes to it. Things like smoking, lack of exercise, high blood pressure and excessive alcohol consumption can all increase your risk for this condition.
Obesity is a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Not only does it increase your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, but also triglycerides and diabetes – which could further raise the risks of developing heart disease.
A diet low in carbohydrates but high in protein, fiber and healthy fats can help you reach a healthier body weight. It may also help maintain a normal weight and lower the risk of diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
A healthy diet combined with regular exercise can significantly lower your risk for heart disease and other chronic illnesses. Combining at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily with a nutritious diet will significantly decrease your likelihood of developing heart problems.
3. Increased Risk of Stroke
Fat around your organs can place you at greater risk for stroke, so it’s essential to understand how visceral fat affects your health.
Recent research suggests a high waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) may be more accurate at predicting stroke risk than body mass index (BMI). WHR is calculated by multiplying someone’s waist circumference by their hip circumference and then dividing that number by 100.
A higher WHR is linked to more belly fat, which has been linked to an increased risk of stroke. According to a study conducted by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), an increase in WHR was an accurate predictor of 10-year stroke risk.
A study that followed 117,000 people for 27 years revealed that increasing animal fat (including dairy fat) intake led to an increased risk of ischemic stroke. Conversely, those who consumed more vegetable fat, including polyunsaturated fats, were 12 percent less likely to suffer a stroke.
Researchers suggest reducing red and processed meat consumption, trimming fat from meat when consumed, and cooking with non-tropical vegetable oils instead of lard or beef fat. These steps may reduce your risk for stroke.
This study is the first to comprehensively investigate how fat from vegetable, dairy and non-dairy animal sources affects stroke risk. It was presented at American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2021.
4. Increased Risk of Cancer
When your visceral fat levels are high, you have an increased likelihood of cancer. This is because your body is storing extra calories that it cannot use as energy, leading to weight gain and obesity.
Furthermore, your body is storing fatty acids which could harm your liver if not addressed promptly. This could result in organ failure and even death.
Your body also produces inflammatory substances when you have too much fat, which can weaken your immune system and leave you more vulnerable to diseases.
According to a study published in Cancer, visceral fat may promote cancer through its release of FGF2, an activator protein. This may stimulate healthy cells to become cancerous.
It’s essential to remember that there is ample evidence confirming the connection between obesity and cancer. This includes both observational studies and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.
Studies using magnetic resonance (MR) studies demonstrate that a higher BMI increases the risk of various types of cancer. These include esophageal, stomach, colon and rectum cancers; liver, gallbladder, pancreas, kidney cancer; corpus uteri (endometrial cancer); breast cancer depending on where the tumour occurs and menopausal status [2, 4, 5].
Cancer risk is increased when combined with factors like inflammation, insulin resistance and low levels of adiponectin, an insulin-secreting hormone. Insulin resistance has also been linked to obesity since it causes your body to store sugar as fat instead of burning it for energy production.
5. Increased Risk of Dementia
Are you overweight or obese and over 50? Your risk for developing dementia in later life is increased – this applies to both men and women alike, though women have a slightly greater prevalence than men.
Researchers from University College London recently examined a sample of older adults from the English Longitudininal Study of Ageing (ELSA), and discovered that those with higher abdominal fat were significantly more likely to develop dementia than those at healthy weight. Their research concluded that being overweight during middle age increases your odds for developing dementia regardless of any comorbid conditions like heart disease or diabetes.
Research on the relationship between obesity and dementia often focuses on obesity itself; however, it’s also essential to remember that someone’s waist-to-hip ratio can also influence their risk for memory loss. This is particularly true for women with higher levels of belly fat as measured by their waist-to-hip ratio.
Researchers have recently noted that excess body fat may contribute to dementia by shrinking the brain and impairing its functioning. While this finding is highly concerning, obesity is a modifiable risk factor for dementia that can be controlled.
To explore the relationship between saturated and trans fat intake and cognitive disorders, we searched PubMed, EMBASE, and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials for observational studies reporting incident dementia, Alzheimer’s disease (AD), mild cognitive impairment (MCI), or total dementia.
Studies have identified an association between high saturated and trans fat intake and Alzheimer’s Disease. One such study, the Chicago Health & Aging Project (CHAP), tracked 815 participants 65 or older at baseline. Furthermore, a large Finnish study revealed that people who consumed more saturated fat had an increased likelihood of suffering from AD than those who consumed less.