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Visceral Fat: Why It’s Different and How to Get Rid of it

By James O’Brien

The human body has two kinds abdominal fat: subcutaneous and visceral. Subcutaneous fat is the stuff that you can pinch and move with your hands; visceral is the kind that can make the belly bulge, but feel hard to the touch (the notorious beer gut). Even if you don’t sport a beer belly, you might still have visceral fat that could be giving you health problems.

While being overweight is not an ideal state of health in general, it’s the visceral fat in particular that nutritionists and health experts cited at ScienceBlog.com connect most commonly with diabetes, glucose-related problems, hypertension, and heart disease.

Problem is, visceral fat doesn’t always stick out. Doctors have discovered thin-looking patients whose abdominal organs are packed with visceral fat. These people face the same kind of health risk as their more obviously beer-bellied counterparts.

Identifying Visceral Fat

As opposed to the typically more evident subcutaneous fat that sits just under the skin, visceral fat can sometimes require an MRI to identify its presence. Once you know you have it, strategies for burning it off (and preventing  its return) are fairly well developed. It will take some work, though, because losing visceral fat is not the same as losing subcutaneous fat.

Dieting and cutting calories, which tend to be good methods of attacking subcutaneous fat, aren’t all that you need to attack these stubborn fats. High intensity workouts that are done regularly are key.

What’s the Fat-Burning Formula?

To get started, visceral fat burners need to log about 17 miles of jogging per week (or an equivalent amount of exercise) for about seven months. That gets things going, it seems. Researchers at Duke University Medical Center have measured the consequent drop in subjects’ visceral fat levels to be about eight percent. It’s important to note that the research indicates that you can’t skimp. Even a dip to some 11 miles of jogging (or the equivalent) cuts the visceral-fat reduction rate to almost nothing.

According to study director Dr. Cris Slentz, the numbers might seem like a lot to a sedentary person, but, in their research, subjects found the increased activity to be not so alarming once they got started. Think about it: 17 miles is just 2.5 miles per day. If you can’t jog, try walking vigorously for more than 30 minutes, six days a week, which Slentz says can be effective at preventing the accumulation of visceral fat.

October 15th, 2011

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