Do you have belly fat? If you do, you have reason to be worried. Even if you don’t have belly fat, you may still be living dangerously. BBC journalist and news reader Angela Rippon had this shocking realisation when she got a chance to see her own internal organs after an MRI scan.
At 71, having muscle strength of a 40 year old and a slim body is definitely an achievement when it comes to physical fitness. Yet, Angela had excessive visceral fat, more than three times what is considered normal. Excess fat of any kind is bad, but visceral fat takes the risk to another level.
Visceral Fat – How It Can Hide In Your Body And Damage Your Health
Our body can store fat in a number of places, but when fat stores are built in the body cavity, they surround vital organs like the heart, liver, intestines and pancreas. A large belly could be an indication of visceral fat. Belly fat is usually a combination of two types of fat, subcutaneous fat, which is just under the skin and visceral fat. The fat that you feel when you pinch flabby areas, is subcutaneous fat. Visceral fat, on the other hand, is invisible.
Everyone has visceral fat. Visceral fat is also known as active fat and it can cause many problems. The problems arise only when it becomes excessive. Besides affecting your body’s hormone systems, visceral fat secretes a protein called RBP4 that can cause insulin resistance and lead to glucose intolerance. If you have high visceral fat, you are at an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, serious issues with your digestive tract and Alzheimer’s disease.
How To Find Out If You Have Excessive Visceral Fat
The only sure shot way of telling if you have high visceral fat is to go through an MRI scan. This is not a cheap or practical option and is not usually necessary. About 10% of the fat in your body is visceral fat. So, if you have excess fat, particularly around the belly, you are likely to be at risk. Your waist measurement is thus a good indicator of excessive visceral fat.
For men, a waist circumference above 94 cm is considered risky and above 102 cm is considered high risk. For women, the corresponding measurements are 80 cm and 88 cm. To measure your waist, place the tape around your belly directly on your skin, midway between the top of your hip bone and the lower rib. The tape will run close to your belly button. Breathe out normally and take the reading. Don’t over tighten the tape or let it hang loose.
How To Reduce Visceral Fat
Scientists are not fully clear about what causes the body to store fat around the organs. However, they know the factors that encourage the storage of visceral fat. One of the causes is stress, which triggers the production of the hormone cortisol. Stress cannot be avoided, but it can be managed. Obesity is another factor. When your body can’t store fat anywhere else, it stores it as visceral fat. If you are overweight or obese, you are likely to have excessive visceral fat, but thin people can also have the problem.
You can reduce visceral fat by leading a healthy lifestyle:
1. Exercise regularly. When you exercise and increase your calorie burn, all fat stores are gradually broken down. Your visceral fat will thus naturally come down.
2. Eat healthy. Stick to a balanced diet, avoid sugary and fatty foods, and don’t overeat.
3. Sleep well. Good sleep helps you stay alert and reduces stress.
4. Stress reduction. Meditation, yoga and exercise can help you manage stress.
5. Quit smoking and drinking.
6. Take inulin rich foods and inulin supplements.
What Is Inulin?
Inulin is a natural starch that cannot be digested by humans. It is a soluble fibre and is also considered a prebiotic. Soluble fibres dissolve in water to form a gel. They are helpful in reducing cholesterol and slowing down the release of glucose during digestion.
Inulin occurs naturally in many common foods such as bananas, onions, garlic, wheat, asparagus and chicory. It serves as reserve food for plants and helps them resist cold climates. The human digestive tract does not produce the enzymes needed to break it down and hence, it does not contribute much to our calorie intake. Most of it passes unchanged through the upper digestive system. It gets broken down in the colon by gut bacteria and the process results in the release of CO2, methane and hydrogen.
The Benefits Of Inulin
1. Blood sugar management. It cannot be digested by humans and being a soluble fibre, it slows down digestion of other foods and the release of glucose. This prevents rapid spikes in blood sugar levels. This may also prevent pre-diabetics from developing the disease.
2. It encourages the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. Inulin is the perfect food for gut bacteria and it promotes their growth. Having large number of beneficial bacteria keeps harmful bacteria from multiplying and prevents infections. It also stimulates your immune system.
3. It is low in calories and high in fibre. It makes you feel full and helps you control overeating. It removes cholesterol from the digestive system as it moves through it.
4. Being a fibre, it adds bulk to the stools, makes elimination easier and improves digestive health.
5. It improves the absorption of calcium and helps prevent calcium deficiencies. It is also believed to improve magnesium absorption.
6. It helps in fat loss, which in turn promotes visceral fat loss.
Getting The Required Quantity Of Inulin
Inulin is naturally available in several foods such as artichokes, agave, asparagus, bananas, garlic, chicory root, leeks, wheat, onions and wild yams. Although some of these foods are commonly used in our diet, getting the required amount from food alone in not very practical. For example, to get the required daily dose of about 3.1g, you will have to eat several kilos of vegetables and fruits. The easier option is to get it from supplements. Inulin supplements are available in capsule and powder form. You can take it with water or sprinkle the powder over food.
Due to its high fibre content and the action of gut bacteria inulin can cause some harmless side-effects like gas, bloating, loose stools and increased flatulence. Side-effects are minimal if the dosage is gradually increased. Drinking plenty of water will also prevent any stomach discomfort and constipation.
For normal people, any amount of inulin is considered safe. However, it is better to consult your doctor if you have irritable bowel syndrome because the dosage may need adjustment. As usual, it is necessary to consult your doctor before taking any supplements, including inulin, if you are pregnant. Allergic reaction to inulin is very rare, but be cautious if you have any kind of food allergy and see your doctor immediately if you get any allergy symptoms.
Visceral fat is one of the most dangerous fats that you can have. It increases the risk of several diseases like diabetes, heart disease and tumors. Inulin, a fibre found naturally in vegetables and fruits, is believed to be beneficial in controlling visceral fat. If you are overweight or have high visceral fat, consider using inulin supplements to get rid of excess visceral fat. Inulin has several other benefits as well.