The Risk of Visceral Fat: What It Is And How to Reduce It

Although visceral fat is often hard to spot, it can be just as dangerous to your health as any other type of fat. Check out this article to learn more about this sneaky deep belly fat and how it affects your body, as well as some tried and true ways to get rid of it.

While it’s easy to ignore those extra pounds around the middle of your body, it’s important to know exactly what causes belly fat and why it’s so important for your health.

Deep visceral fat carries more health risks than surface fat anywhere else in your body. It’s found deep in the abdominal cavity and close to your organs.

Visceral fat promotes systemic inflammation. If left unchecked, it can lead to serious health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers.

In this article, we’ll define visceral fat and explore research-backed lifestyle tips to reduce levels of this dangerous hidden fat. The road to better visceral health begins with knowledge.

What is visceral fat?

Visceral fat is a type of fat that's found in the belly and around the internal organs like your liver, stomach, intestines, and kidneys. This type of fat is called visceral fat because it's inside the belly instead of just under the skin.

The following are eight effective methods of eliminating visceral fat.

1. Exercise Regularly

Determined man practicing jogging with male friends

Regular physical activity, such as walking, can help to reduce visceral fat. According to a study published in Medicine and Science, 150 minutes of physical activity per week can decrease abdominal fat.[1]

2. Reduce Stress

Stress can take a toll on your body because it increases your cortisol levels. If your cortisol stays high for an extended period of time, it can cause your metabolism to slow down and your body to store more fat. One way to reduce stress is to do yoga on a regular basis.

In 2012, a study was published in the Journal of Yoga that looked at the effects of yoga vs. walking on cortisol in patients with early-stage breast cancer who were under psychiatric stress. The study looked at saliva samples and found that an hour of hatha yoga had a significantly lower cortisol level from pre-to-post than walking.

Mind-body techniques in yoga help ease the activation of the sympathetic “fight or flight” nervous system and the hormone response to stressors in the HPA axis. Poses and breathing focus energy inward, reducing stress. Other studies confirm yoga's ability to lower cortisol levels through mindfulness training and light stretching movements.

Cortisol levels are lower, which means your metabolism is better and your belly fat is spread out more. Yoga is a whole-body approach that builds resilience to stress and has long-term effects on cortisol levels. When you do yoga regularly, it's like a natural supplement to your diet to help you lose those extra pounds on your belly.

Portrait of a carefree young woman

3. Sleep More

Getting too little sleep can mess with your body's natural balance of hormones that control your appetite. According to the National Sleep Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that focuses on sleep science, not enough sleep can have a negative effect on your hormone levels.

Leptin helps reduce feelings of hunger, but it doesn't work as well when you're not getting enough sleep. When you don't get enough sleep, a hormone called ghrelin kicks in and encourages you to eat more. This messes with how your body signals hunger, making it harder for your body to regulate its own calories and keep your metabolism healthy in the long run.

According to the National Science Foundation, the recommended amount of sleep for healthy adults is between 7 and 9 hours a night. If you get less sleep, it can affect your body weight because it disrupts the sleep-wake cycle of hormones like cortisol, leptin, and ghrelin. It also means you use less energy during the day because you don't do as much physical activity and your metabolism slows down.

A woman having good sleep

4. Watch parts with MyPlate

It's important to eat healthy whole foods, but eating too much of even the healthiest stuff can cause you to eat too many calories and end up gaining weight. Check out the MyPlate icon on choose my plate for a reliable, research-based guide to eating healthy but not too much.

MyPlate is a place setting designed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) based on the dietary guidelines for Americans. It shows five food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy. The proportions are designed to look like a balanced meal and help you meet your nutrient needs without overeating.

The color-coded sections make it clear that at least half of our plates should be filled with fruits and veggies. The grain and protein portions look like they're in the middle of the pack. The info on the ChooseMyPlate page breaks down the serving amounts by age, gender, and activity level.

Research shows that MyPlate makes it easier for people to figure out what the right amount of food is since it's replaced the old food pyramid. With this simple visual guide from the top nutrition agency in the country, people can pick something that's satisfying but not too much, which helps them stay healthy.

Making MyPlate a regular part of your routine helps stop you from eating too much all the time and building up your belly fat from eating too much every day without thinking about it. This makes it easier to make healthy changes to your eating habits.

Salad with semolina- falafels pickled vegetables

5. Eliminate added sugars for your health

Sugary drinks, snacks, and desserts that are refined carbohydrates don't have fiber or nutrients, but they have calories that can easily turn into visceral fat if you eat too much. The FDA has set limits on how much sugar you can have each day.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), after a thorough review of scientific evidence linking high levels of added sugars to obesity, heart disease, and other health problems, less than 10 percent of your total daily calories should be from added sugars. That’s about 50 grams (12.5 teaspoons) for every 2,000 calories you eat.

The FDA wants to make it easier for people to understand how added sugars affect their sugar intake, so they now want to include the percentage daily value of added sugars (DV) in nutrition facts. That way, people can figure out if a certain amount of sugar in a food item is going to make or break their sugar quota.

Consuming the recommended amount of sugar as recommended by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reduces unhealthy carb spikes that trigger fat storage signals, while also allowing for more nutritious options such as fruit to be incorporated into the daily diet in order to maintain a balanced energy level.

This top regulatory body encourages people to be mindful of how refined carbs and added sugars can affect their weight and overall health in the long run. Their goal is to give people the power to make decisions based on science.

6. Consume Probiotic Foods For Gut

Our gut microbes not only help us digest food, but they also have a big impact on our metabolism and weight. MIT researchers have discovered that gut bacteria play a role in how much food we eat and how much weight we gain or lose.

One of the most significant studies, published in 2012, found that some probiotic gut microbes play a role in obesity risk through mechanisms such as energy absorption, lipid processing enzymes, and appetite hormone regulation. This study showed that the gut microbiome plays a role in weight regulation that goes far beyond just counting calories.

Eating fermented foods like yogurt and kefir can help keep your gut healthy by providing live active cultures, or probiotics. Studies from MIT and other top universities suggest that eating more probiotic foods can help you lose weight and reduce your body fat percentage over time.

Probiotics help break down unprocessed fiber into "short-chain fatty acids" like butyrate, which are used as energy for cells in the gut. Consuming probiotics regularly helps keep the gut mucosa healthy and reduces inflammation associated with metabolic disorders.

Healthy breakfast with fresh Greek yoghurt

7. Drink water to stay hydrated and keep your hormones in check

The EFSA provides reliable scientific risk assessments on food-related topics. According to the EFSA’s review, even moderate dehydration changes hormone responses in harmful ways.

Water deficiency causes elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol. When cortisol is chronically elevated, it causes fluid retention, which contributes to water weight changes.

It's important to drink enough water each day to keep your body hydrated. According to the European Food Safety Authority, drinking water can help reduce hunger and make you feel more full than sugary drinks with the same calories. Most adults drink around 2 liters a day, which is enough to keep their hormones in check and keep them healthy without worrying about too much fluid retention.

Drinking water regularly is a great way to stay hydrated. It helps keep your body from getting too high in cortisol and bloating, and it gives your body the right signals to eat healthy so you don't eat too many calories. Following the advice of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is the best way to stay healthy and maintain a healthy weight over your life. Keeping your body's fluid levels in a "Goldilocks zone" helps you stay healthy.

Woman drinking water after hard workout

8. Take Hibiscus Supplements

Hibiscus can help you lose visceral fat. Several animal studies published in well-respected peer-reviewed journals support this claim. For example, a 2012 study in the leading journal for nutrition research in the United States found that the extract of hibiscus significantly reduced the build-up of abdominal and liver fat in mice fed high-fat diets.

It was also said hibiscus was responsible for their findings. Hibiscus has antioxidants and anti-inflammatory chemicals like flavonoids and anthocyanins that help control genes that are involved in lipids. Another study from 2010 in the same journal showed that taking hibiscus reduced weight gain and belly fat percentage in mice.

While more studies in humans are needed, the way hibiscus helps burn fat and keep your digestive system healthy suggests it could also help reduce visceral fat in humans. Hibiscus flowers are packed with fiber, minerals, and nutrients that help keep your blood sugar and cholesterol levels in check, which are both risk factors for getting central obesity.

Hibiscus as an herbal supplement provides a research-supported alternative for targeted visceral fat reduction when combined with a balanced diet and lifestyle. By incorporating findings from leading nutrition experts, we pave the way for future human applications research.

If you stick to evidence-based tips from reliable sources, you can use them to help reduce belly fat in a balanced and reliable way over time. Hibiscus, for example, could be a great addition to your diet.

Heap of aromatic hibiscus in spoon

Bottom Line

Hibiscus has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that help regulate genes that control lipid metabolism. Studies in animals have shown that hibiscus extract can reduce fat buildup in the belly and liver of mice that were fed a high-fat diet. The phytonutrients in hibiscus help keep blood sugar and cholesterol in check, which can lead to central obesity and fat gain. Although more studies in humans are needed, the way hibiscus helps burn fat and keep the digestive system healthy suggests it could also help reduce visceral fat in humans.

Hibiscus is a herbal supplement that has been scientifically supported as a complementary approach to targeted visceral fat reduction when used in conjunction with a balanced diet, physical activity, stress management, and lifestyle modifications. By incorporating evidence from multiple reliable scientific sources, natural strategies such as Hibiscus supplementation may be able to contribute to the reduction of visceral fat over the course of a weight loss program.