Much has been discussed in the media about the health consequences of visceral fat. In this sense, the media seems to actually be educating the public on the issues that come attached with excess visceral fat. This article will go over what visceral fat is, why it’s bad, the gender differences in visceral fat storage, and methods to remove it.
Visceral fat is, as the name implies, fat around your viscera. Which according to dictionary.com: is an area around the organs of your body, especially those in the abdominal cavity. So its fat that’s contained around the organs of your body in the abdominal area. There are numerous health issues associated with visceral adiposity. It’s been associated with insulin resistance, Montague C.T. et al concluded that obese individuals with visceral fat experienced more greater adverse metabolic consequences than obese individuals with less visceral fat.
These are all associations however. I was unable to find any research which showed that visceral fat had a causative effect on insulin resistance. As a matter of fact an entire study by Frayn KN looked at if the effects of visceral fat and insulin resistance are causative or correlative. The conclusion pretty much says it all: “there is at present no proof of a causal link between visceral fat accumulation and insulin resistance, or the associated metabolic syndrome.”
I’m not here to say that visceral fat is good! There is definitely something going on with visceral fat and insulin resistance. Further research seems to be needed in order to find out what in particular is causing the association between visceral fat and insulin resistance. One study, which I already mentioned noted that obese individuals’ fat tissues contained the adipokines interleukin-6 and tumor necrosis factor. These two adipokines have may cause obesity-related insulin resistance. This study was done on adipose tissue in general however, and not visceral fat exclusively.
Another hypothesis of the association is related to the the orientation of visceral fat. It’s approximation to the liver may play in a role in the development of metabolic syndromes. Since an increased plasma FFA concentration also plays a role in the pathogenesis of insulin resistance, it can be postulated that increased visceral fat > increased plasma FFA > increased chances of developing insulin resistance.
Another very interesting point about visceral fat is it’s highly metabolically active. More so than subcutaneous fat as a matter of fact. According to Monzon J.R. et al visceral fat is 20% more “metabolically” active then subcutaneous active. By metabolically active, I mean that the visceral fat has higher lipolytic effects than subcutaneous fat. This is yet another reason that visceral fat may increase your chances of developing insulin resistance.
Now let’s take a look at the gender differences in visceral fat. According to Vortruba and Jensen et al men carry more visceral fat than women. Power et al concluded the same thing and tried to tie these reasons into evolutionary processes. The higher distribution of lower-body fat in women may be linked to the process of reproduction. Perhaps more fat was stored there so females had a highly metabolically active site to draw energy from.
The reason men store it more as visceral fat is murky. The study cited above concluded “that the pattern of central obesity, more commonly seen in men, is not adaptive, but rather reflects the genetic drift hypothesis of human susceptibility to obesity.” This is just my opinion, but since males were usually the hunters, they would need a quick energy source as well to hunt. They would also need a source for this energy and perhaps sub visceral fat and it’s highly metabolic characteristic was where that energy was stored. During famine, this fat could easily be released into the blood stream to help find food. Now a days, finding food is as easy as picking up a phone and having a credit card.
You may be asking why men couldn’t store a higher distribution of fat in the lower-body like females and vice versa. Horton et al as well as Romanski have separate studies with data showing that plasma free fatty acids (FFA) are lower in females after a given time compared to males. This means that ladies are storing more of these FFA somewhere. Romanski’s data supports the fact that women store more FFA in subcutaneous fat than do men. Sorry ladies!
So it appears that females store more FFA in subcutaneous fat. Where does this fat tend to store? Why is stored there? Data from Horton et al indicate that women have less TG in the lower limb after feeding. This fact alone supports that females have a higher propensity to store FFA in their lower bodies compared to men. In order for FFA to be stored as body fat, there must be an increase in blood flow to a given area. Well, women also have greater blood flow to their lower body compared to men.
So there you have it folks. Visceral fat isn’t good, but there really are only associations (so far) linking them to diabetes. Still, there really is no reason to have visceral fat. It doesn’t have any special abilities that subcutaneous fat doesn’t already have. For those of you who are interested in aesthetics, obviously you’d want to get rid of this as well. I said at the beginning that I’d tell you how to get rid of it. The answer is simple, but not easy: Lose weight! Since visceral fat is incredibly metabolically active, it will be shed easier than subcutaneous fat. So if you lose fat, you can bet that a large amount of it will come from sub visceral fat!