It’s been about a year since I last published an article on the subject of visceral fat, and the information just keeps accumulating. I was thinking about it just the other day. A few minutes later, I picked up my latest copy of “Exercise for Men Only”, and there on page 46 was a column by Dr. Sam Sugar (I don’t make this up) entitled, “Obesity is Bad For the Brain”.
That was a new one on me, so I read the article, made some notes, and did some research. Sure enough, a study conducted at the University of Florida (I flunked out of archrival Florida State University in ’66, myself) came to the conclusion that obesity in very young children could be linked to diminished intelligence in later years. Other studies by such organizations as Kaiser Permanente, and additional information from Harvard Medical School, and sites such as WebMD.com helped fill in some blanks.
My curiosity was piqued by this thing about the brain being affected by obesity and visceral fat. Therefore, I went digging for a little more info to update what I had written back in ought-6, and found that as I stated then, visceral fat was sure enough a bad thing to have. What I didn’t expect was a couple of new problems I uncovered.
Visceral fat, also known as belly fat, abdominal fat, or intra-abdominal fat, has been known for some time to be a “usual suspect” in many cases of coronary disease, diabetes, sleep apnea, and a nasty little thing known as “Metabolic Syndrome”.
Metabolic syndrome is a condition in which the individual experiences a combination of insulin resistance, elevated cholesterol and hypertension (high blood pressure). Since none of these things is good by itself and can contribute to other problems such as diabetes and heart disease, it’s plain that having all three at one time is a triple threat…and I DO mean threat.
I covered a lot of this in my other article, but what I was not aware of at the time was the info mentioned above that obesity, of which visceral fat is obviously a deadly component, is being linked to not only diminished intelligence in children, but may be a factor (only “may” so far) in the development of Alzheimer’s in our senior population.
Obesity in general, and visceral fat as a particularly villainous part of that, can, over time, cause damage to our kidneys, heart, eyes, arteries, and, yes, even our brains. In fact, a Swedish study linked high body mass index (BMI) to increased risk of actual brain tissue loss in areas which control language, memory, and hearing.
As the alternative name “abdominal fat” implies, visceral fat is located in the abdominal cavity and surrounds several major organs. Unlike “subcutaneous fat” which is found below the skin, visceral fat secretes inflammatory hormones which can cause organ damage (heart, kidney, brain) at a cellular level. So, while obesity in general is a problem to be dealt with, visceral fat (belly fat) in particular demands immediate and special attention.
You Might Have Belly Fat If:
Belly fat, visceral fat, abdominal fat…whatever…can really only be effectively located and measured by MRI. One rule of thumb, however, is that if a man has a waist larger than 40 inches, or a woman has a waist more than 35 inches, they are probably carrying a dangerous amount of visceral fat. To make matters worse, if something is not done, visceral fat may accumulate at a rate of four pounds a year, and, above age 45 in men, 55 in women, the risks increase with age as well.
Some things, you just cannot do a thing about. Genetics, for example, accounts for anywhere from 30 percent to 60 percent of your tendency to accumulate belly fat. On the other hand, some things such as diet, level of activity (yes, I AM talking about exercise), and smoking are within your control and can be the deciding factors in the battle against abdominal fat.
Simply watching what you eat can be a step in the journey to rid yourself of belly fat, but it seldom works well by itself. While such actions as switching from saturated fats to unsaturated fats (corn oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil, fish) can produce good results in helping reduce visceral fat, combating obesity at any level almost always involves a combination of healthy eating habits and regular exercise.
Studies show that regular exercise done at least five times a week for at least 30 minutes at a time is going to be the lowest level that can be used to reverse the accumulation of belly fat for most people. Lower intensity exercise or exercise done less often may stop the addition of abdominal fat, but will usually not reduce it. In fact, some studies have shown that as little as ten minutes a day could be enough to stop the accumulation of belly fat.
Visceral fat is not only unsightly, but it can be deadly as we have seen. However, the same tools of proper nutrition and regular exercise, which are important for overall health and weight management, can be used to combat belly fat as well.
Donovan Baldwin is a 64 year old bodybuilder and freelance writer residing in Stone Mountain, GA. He is a University of West Florida alumnus, is a member of Mensa, and is retired from the U. S. Army after 21 years of service. His main pleasures have long been writing, nature, health, and fitness. In the last few years, he has been able to combine these pleasures by writing poetry and articles on subjects such as health, fitness, weight lifting, yoga, weight loss, the environment, global warming, happiness, self improvement, and life.
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