Visceral Fat: What It is and How to Get Rid of It

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Visceral fat is fat stored within the abdominal cavity that can build up in arteries and increase the risk of health conditions like diabetes, prediabetes, and heart disease.

While some body fat is healthy, not all fat is the same. Visceral fat is near crucial organs, such as:

  • Liver
  • Stomach
  • Intestines

As mentioned above visceral fat can also build up in the arteries.

Visceral fat is known as “active fat” since it can actively increase the risk of serious health problems.

Belly fat comes in two types, subcutaneous fat which is stored beneath the skin, and visceral fat, which is located within the abdominal cavity. This means that having belly fat doesn’t necessarily mean having visceral fat.

Compared to visceral fat, subcutaneous fat is more visible as it’s also present in the arms and legs. Visceral fat, on the other hand, is concealed inside the abdominal cavity and cannot be easily observed.

How is visceral fat diagnosed

Diagnosing visceral fat accurately requires a CT or MRI scan, which can be costly and time-consuming.

Healthcare providers typically utilize general guidelines to assess the level of visceral fat in your body and the potential health risks it may pose, instead of depending on particular tests.

Research shows that visceral fat makes up about 10% of total body fat. To estimate the amount of visceral fat in your body, you can calculate 10% of your total body fat.

A simple method to assess your risk for associated health issues is to measure the circumference of your waist.

The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health suggests that women with a waist measurement of 35 inches (88.9cm) or more are at risk of health problems associated with visceral fat.

Alternatively, men who have a waist measurement of 40 inches (101.6cm) or greater are at risk of developing health problems due to visceral fat accumulation.

How is visceral fat measured?

Measuring your visceral fat percentage at home is not possible.

However, you can determine your waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) at home or ask your healthcare provider to measure it for you, which can be helpful in assessing your risk for health problems related to visceral fat.

You can determine your WHR at home by following these steps:

  • Stand up straight.
  • Locate and measure the smallest part of your waist, typically just above the belly button. This is your waist circumference.
  • Locate and measure the widest part of your hips or buttocks. This is your hip circumference.
  • Divide your waist circumference by your hip circumference to calculate your WHR.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported in 2008,by citing a study from 2001, that a waist-to-hip ratio above .85 for women and .90 for men indicates abdominal obesity.

An increased waist-to-hip ratio also raises the risk of metabolic complications, including diabetes.

Waist-height ratio (WHtR)

Another measurement that can be used to assess health risks associated with visceral fat is the waist-height ratio (WHtR).

A study conducted in 2020 found that the waist-height ratio (WHtR) is particularly beneficial for individuals with type 1 diabetes.

The study showed that a high waist-height ratio was strongly associated with a high amount of visceral fat in individuals with type 1 diabetes.

WHtR was deemed a more dependable measurement compared to other metrics such as Waist-To-Hip Ratio (WHR),Body Mass Index (BMI), and Body Shape Index (ABSI).

A high percentage of visceral fat was strongly linked to having a larger waist circumference.

To determine your WHtR on your own, measure your waist and height using the same units (inches or centimeters), then divide your waist circumference by your height.

An optimal WHtR generally does not exceed 0.50.

Visceral fat can lead to health problems right away.

It can also lead to an increase in insulin resistance, even if an individual has not been diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes.

Research has found that visceral fat can contribute to insulin resistance. Several studies suggest that this is because it secretes retinol binding protein 4 (RBP4), a protein that is known to increase insulin resistance.

It can also rapidly increase blood pressure as well.

Most significantly, having too much visceral fat elevates your chances of developing various severe and potentially fatal health conditions. These may include:

  • Heart attack and heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Stroke
  • Breast cancer
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Alzheimer’s disease

How to get rid of visceral fat

This type of fat is extremely responsive to:

  • Engaging in regular exercise
  • Adopting a healthy and balanced diet
  • Making other lifestyle changes that promote maintaining a moderate weight

Each pound of weight loss results in a reduction of some amount of visceral fat as well.


Aim to engage in at least 30 minutes of exercise daily, incorporating both cardio activities and strength training whenever possible.

Cardio exercise involves aerobic activities such as:

  • Circuit training
  • Biking
  • Running

Cardio activities can burn fat faster.

As you build muscle through strength training, your body will gradually burn more calories because muscles consume more energy.

You should aim to do cardio exercises for 30 minutes, 5 days a week, and engage in strength training at least 3 times a week.


It’s also very important to maintain a healthy and balanced diet.

Remove processed and high-sugar foods from your diet and instead include more lean proteins, vegetables, and complex carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes, beans, and lentils.

A diet low in carbohydrates, such as the ketogenic diet, may help in reducing visceral fat and fat in general.


Reducing stress in your life can help you lose visceral fat because the stress hormone called cortisol increases the amount of fat your body stores when you have increased stress levels.

You can manage stress by practicing meditation, deep breathing, and other relaxation techniques.

When to visit your doctor

If you’re a man with a waist size of over 40 inches (101,6cm) or a woman with a waist size of over 35 inches (88.9cm), it’s important to schedule a meeting with your doctor without delay to discuss possible health hazards and make lifestyle adjustments.

Your doctor may perform medical tests like blood tests or an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) to assess the health risks associated with high levels of visceral fat.


Visceral fat is not always visible, which makes it more dangerous as we may not be aware of its presence. However, it can usually be prevented with proper lifestyle choices.

A healthy and active lifestyle with low stress levels can prevent excessive buildup of visceral fat in the abdominal cavity.

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