The One Thing You Should Never, Ever Do if You Want to Avoid Visceral Fat Buildup

The One Thing You Should Never, Ever Do if You Want to Avoid Visceral Fat Buildup

Woman stepping on scale

While body fat is often talked about in general terms, the truth is that there are different types of body fat. Where fat is accumulating in your body (and how much of it) makes a difference in terms of its impact on your health.

For example, subcutaneous fat sits directly under the skin, cushioning bones and joints. This is the fat you can pinch. Visceral fat lies deeper in the abdominal cavity, wrapping around organs including the pancreas, intestines, liver and heart. This type of fat, in excess, is more dangerous than subcutaneous fat.

It’s possible to avoid visceral fat build-up through diet and lifestyle habits. In fact, there’s one habit in particular doctors and dietitians say people should never do if they want to avoid this type of fat.

Related: This Is the Best Food for Visceral Fat Loss, According to Registered Dietitians and Physicians

How Does Visceral Fat Impact Health?

Dr. Dexter G. Turnquest, MD, FACS, DABOM, a bariatric surgeon at Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital, says that visceral fat plays an important role in the body; it’s good to have some visceral fat. He explains that it plays a role in physiological functions such as body temperature regulation and basal metabolic rate.

Too much visceral fat is hazardous to health, however. Sharon George, MS, RD, CDN, a registered dietitian at New York Bariatric Group, explains that this is because an excessive amount of visceral fat can increase blood pressure as well as the risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

What’s a healthy amount of visceral fat and when it is considered excessive? A normal visceral fat range is considered to be 10% of body fat. The way to find out how much visceral fat you have is by calculating your total body fat percentage and taking off 10%. If your total body fat is above what is considered to be healthy, you can assume that your visceral body fat amount is also above what is considered healthy.

Related: Eating These 10 Foods Can Help Reduce Visceral Fat, According to Nutritionists

How to Avoid Excessive Visceral Body Fat

Dr. Turnquest and George both say that avoiding visceral body fat buildup doesn’t just come down to one action. “There’s not one specific habit that is a silver bullet against visceral fat. The accumulation of visceral fat is influenced by lifestyle choices, including diet, exercise, sleep and stress management. Adopting a balanced and health-conscious approach can contribute to overall well-being and reduce the risk of associated health issues,” Dr. Turnquest explains.

That said, Dr. Mustafa H. Alibhai, MD, a board-certified general surgeon at NOVA Bariatrics, says there is one habit in particular people should avoid: living a sedentary lifestyle. “Prolonged sitting and lack of physical activity contribute to the accumulation of visceral fat,” he explains, adding that the same logic applies the other way too: Regular exercise helps burn calories and reduces the risk of visceral fat build-up.

Related: This Is the Optimal Diet to Lose Visceral Fat in 2-3 Months, According to Endocrinologists

Scientific research backs up the connection between living a sedentary lifestyle and having more visceral fat. In one study, going from a sedentary lifestyle to incorporating 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity into one’s day was linked to an average of eight centimeters less visceral fat.

When it comes to what type of exercise is best for avoiding visceral fat buildup, Dr. Turnquest recommends both aerobic exercise and resistance training. Both of these types of exercise have been scientifically linked to preventing or reducing visceral fat.

In terms of diet, George—who is a bariatric dietitian—says that the best way to avoid an unhealthy amount of visceral fat is to minimize foods high in saturated fat or sugar. This means limiting consumption of ultra-processed foods such as baked goods, soda and fatty cuts of meat. Dr. Turnquest agrees, recommending a diet high in protein and fiber instead. All three experts say that it’s also important to minimize alcohol consumption, which is linked to excessive visceral fat.

George and Dr. Turnquest both say that it’s also important to find healthy ways to manage stress. Chronic stress is linked to having a higher amount of visceral fat. This is because stress activates the hormone cortisol in the body and high levels of cortisol make the body hold on to visceral fat.

Remember, some visceral fat is healthy. But too much is harmful. Following a healthy diet, exercising regularly, minimizing alcohol consumption and finding healthy ways to manage stress go a long way in terms of avoiding visceral fat buildup. All these habits will support your overall health too!

Next up, learn about three surprising causes of belly fat.