Think being lean is an indicator of overall health? Well you’re right to an extent. There can still be a dangerous chunk of fat behind a killer set of abs. This fat, known as visceral fat can lead to many health problems including heart disease, high cholesterol, and high triglycerides. What’s more important is that it might take no more than a few ounces of this type of fat and another type termed perivascular fat, to threaten your life!
Perivascular fat is a type of fat which clumps around your arteries leading to your heart. Researchers at the University of Cincinnati have recently begun looking into this type of fat and its effects on humans. Their studies are showing something totally remarkable and potentially thought-changing in the medical world. Their studies have shown that perivascular fat growing around your arteries is actually causing the disease on the inside. This specific type of fat seems to be loaded with inflammatory cells, even more so than visceral fat.
So how can one tell if they have this enigmatic problem? Well that’s a little more tricky. It’s not easy to diagnose and even though one would think it’s related to overall body fat, the studies have shown even lean organ donors can have plenty of perivascular and visceral fat. One researcher noted that individuals should “keep an eye on your overall fitness level. That’s going to have a big impact because perivascular fat seems sensitive to changes in the nutritional state.”
Now let’s examine if you need to be worried about these new types of dangerous fats and an action plan to implement if so. It’s easier than you think. Your waist size tends to be related to the amount of visceral fat you may have according to a study in the American Journal of Epidemiology. The American Heart Association recommends keeping your waist below 40 inches dependent on your overall body structure. To check your waist size, simply wrap a tailor’s measuring tape around your waist, slightly above your hips, after you exhale. 40+? Time to attack visceral fat!
Tip #1 – Eat Whole Grains
Foods such as barley, brown rice, and quinoa have many, many benefits. A 2010 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study found that people who ate three or more daily servings of whole grains had 10% less visceral fat than those who ate hardly any or none at all. These results held true even after researchers adjusted for other lifestyle and diet factors.
Tip #2 – Stop The Fructose
While fructose is a natural sugar and that’s a positive, too much of a good thing quickly turns to a negative. Georgia Health Sciences University published a study on adolescents that showed those who consumed the most fructose had about 20% MORE visceral fat than those who ate the least. Avoid fruit juices or foods that have added sugar or high-fructose corn syrup. DO NOT STOP EATING NATURAL WHOLE FRUIT!
Tip #3 – Cardio Is Still King
Cardio is still the best type of exercise for burning visceral fat. Duke University found that people who trained on common pieces of cardiovascular equipment such as elliptical machines, stationary bikes, and treadmills for 8 months lost about 8% of their visceral fat. Those who performed equally intense resistance-type workouts saw NO change in visceral fat. Cardio wins over weights in this aspect.
Tip #4 – Sleep, Sleep, Sleep
If you frequently read my articles, I’m always preaching about sleep. The experts keep giving me reasons to. The right amount of sleep is key in preventing visceral fat as well. A study published in Sleep showed that people who averaged 6 to 7 hours a night of sleep had the lowest levels of visceral fat. Above and below this window were both associated with more visceral fat. Those who slept less than 5 hours had even more visceral fat! Over a 5-year period, this group also put on visceral fat about 5 times faster than the healthy group did. So let me reaffirm my statement again. Sleep is one of the most beneficial things you can do to improve your overall well-being!
So remember, fat comes in all shapes and sizes. Just because you cannot see it, does not mean it’s not their lurking. Work on keeping your diet balanced and living an active, healthy lifestyle. That’s the best prevention for any and all ailments.
-by Mike Ross, PharmD, SFN
- The Body’s Surprising Pockets of Dangerous Fat (debbiestrauch.wordpress.com)