If you have an “apple” shape, for example, whereby the stomach sticks out, then it could be a sign of too much visceral fat stored around the organs. Healthdirect Australia, the virtual public health information service, cautioned that an apple-shaped body is likely to have “toxic” chemicals and hormones. “Visceral fat produces more toxic substances than subcutaneous fat,” the experts noted.
This type of hidden fat is naturally stored around internal organs, but eating too many calories, without enough exercise, can lead to an unhealthy build-up.
Regarded as biologically active, high levels of visceral fat has been linked to:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Insulin resistance
- Lower back pain.
If you measure your waist, you can gather a fairly accurate reading as to whether or not you are carrying too much visceral fat.
For women, the risk of chronic disease is increased if the waist circumference is 80cm or more.
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For men, their physical health is at risk if their waist measures at 94cm or more.
Experts at Harvard Medical School explained: “Visceral fat pumps out immune system chemicals called cytokines.”
Two examples are “tumour necrosis factor and interleukin-6”, which “increase the risk of cardiovascular disease”.
The experts added: “One reason excess visceral fat is so harmful could be its location near the portal vein, which carries blood from the intestinal area to the liver.
“Substances released by visceral fat, including free fatty acids, enter the portal vein and travel to the liver, where they can influence the production of blood lipids.
“Visceral fat is directly linked with higher total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol, lower HDL (good) cholesterol, and insulin resistance.”
Whether your waist is measuring more than the recommended limit, or you have an obvious apple-shaped body, you can take steps to reduce visceral fat levels.
By eating less, and focusing on more nutritious foods, in addition to regular exercise, you can improve your health prospects.
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The NHS offers a free weight-loss plan, which is also available to download as an app on a smartphone.
On the platform, it shares tips on healthier eating habits and how to be more active.
The 12-week programme enables you to take it one week at a time, so you can achieve your fat loss goals.
In addition to shedding harmful visceral fat, you are likely to be more trim.
Penn Medicine describes an apple-shaped body as “round” that has a “wider waist”.
Yet, there are other body shapes to be aware of: pear, hourglass, inverted triangle, and ruler.
While an apple-shaped body is considered by some as most dangerous, there is mixed research on other body shapes.
“No matter what shape you are, the key is to maintain a healthy weight, eat healthy foods and stay active,” the experts note.