SFH #66: What you should know about visceral fat

What is it, how to measure, and what to do 🤌🏼

Too much visceral fat can be a significant health problem. It's a key player in our metabolic health. It's mostly known as belly fat, though also surrounds our intestines, liver, and other organs. It's 10% of our total fat (subcutaneous is the remaining 90%), and it packs some detrimental inflammatory health issues from cardiovascular disease to cancer.1 2

Image Courtesy of bulletproof.com

The good thing about this susceptible balance of visceral fat is that it's easy to understand and combat with a little education.

Let's look at how to identify where we are with our visceral fat. While there are body markers and precise metrics we can find with tests, this can be as simple as waist size compared to hip size. Men want to stay below a ratio where their waist circumference (just above the belly button) is 90% or less than the circumference around the widest part of the hips and buttocks. Women want to be 85% or less.

Whether we are in the range of healthy adipose tissue or not, let's look at how we can improve and where to look.

The following are foods to pay attention to and consider making scarce in your kitchen.

  1. Number 1 on the hit list these days: ultra-processed foods (broad category). Think white bread, breakfast cereals, flavored potato chips (my kryptonite), soda, and energy drinks. It's the palate high jacking and insulin response that sets our visceral fat into orbit.3 🍞

  2. Trans fats or hydrogenated oils are no bueno. You'll usually find these fats in fried foods, baked goods, crackers, pre-made dough, and vegetable shortening. These are so bad that the FDA banned trans fats in 2018, though they still can be found on the shelf in some cases. The biggest thing to look out for is food fried in vegetable oil. My philosophy is a ten-foot pole on these troublesome foods.4 🍪

  3. Too much fructose and corn syrup can put us on tilt. This is a similar path to the broader category of ultra-processed foods. Think sodas and fruit juices here. Too much consumption of these highly potent sweeteners promotes a cascade of insulin resistance, inflammation, and metabolic disease5🥤

  4. Alcohol. The proclaimed ‘social lubricant’ can be like sludge to our healthy metabolic processes. And it just takes a moderate amount. I like to limit drinking alcohol as much as possible, but a good rule of thumb according to this science is under 3 drinks a week (not much at all) 6 🍺

I know that it’s not easy to make changes when we feel inundated by information and overwhelmed by potential obstacles to new habits. My suggestion with food choices like these or any new habits you are considering is to make one small change a week. Maybe for this week you find all the products that have fructose or corn syrup in your house, and you put them on the top shelf. 🔝

For a deeper dive video cast by two experts in the field watch Dr. Mark Hyman and Dr. Elizabeth Boham. 📺

Maybe try at a slightly faster speed 😉 - 1.25 or maybe 1.5