If you’re wondering how to improve your cholesterol, your health care provider has probably told you your “numbers” are abnormal. This generally means your total cholesterol is too high, your HDL (good) cholesterol is too low, your LDL (bad) cholesterol is too high, or your triglycerides are too high. (More than one of your cholesterol numbers could be abnormal.) Continue reading “How to Improve your Cholesterol to Reduce your Risk of Heart Disease”
Do you suffer from diabesity? Is losing weight extremely difficult for you because of food cravings and emotional eating? What types of emotions trigger your food cravings and emotional eating? Continue reading “How to End Diabesity, Food Cravings, and Emotional Eating”
The effects of visceral fat are probably not something most people think about. They are much more likely to think about belly fat in general with the goal of getting rid of it as quickly as possible.
If you have problems with belly fat, you can probably identify with this attitude. Studies show a high percentage of people are unhappy with the appearance of their bellies. Most of them want to get rid of their belly fat for aesthetic reasons, but did you know there is a type of belly fat that is not only unhealthy but deadly?
The effects of visceral fat on your health is so much worse than any cosmetic complication, and most people don’t even know they’re in danger.
The Effects of Visceral Fat Vs. Subcutaneous Fat
There was a time when fat (adipose tissue) was simply considered an inert tissue that stores fat. We now know fat is metabolically active tissue that synthesizes and secretes hormones. Fat tissue plays a role in insulin sensitivity, inflammatory process mediation, and more.
This is why the effects of visceral fat on health and those of subcutaneous fat are as different as night and day. Let’s start with subcutaneous fat.
Subcutaneous fat is the layer of fat that lies just beneath the skin. It is the fat you can pinch beneath your fingers, the fat that jiggles and dimples, and it is distributed throughout your entire body. Wherever you have skin, you have a layer of subcutaneous fat beneath it. Evidence suggests subcutaneous fat may actually be good for your health. Research shows subcutaneous fat may improve glucose metabolism for better blood sugar control.
Visceral fat lies deep within the abdominal cavity, surrounding and at times even wrapping around vital organs, such as the kidneys, pancreas, and liver. You cannot see or feel visceral fat. But the effects of visceral fat located so close to these organs increase the risk for many serious health conditions.
Researchers have learned that visceral fat pumps immune system and inflammatory chemicals, which they believe probably enters the nearby portal vein of the intestine. These chemicals are then carried to the liver and cause cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance, and other serious conditions.
The Effects of Visceral Fat on Body Shape: How to Tell by Appearance
Though you cannot see visceral fat, there are a few ways that appearance can indicate the likely presence of visceral fat.
The best way to see the effects of visceral fat on body shape is to look at yourself in a full-length mirror. Are you pear shaped or apple shaped? You see, if most of your fat is in the lower half of your body (your butt, thighs, etc.), you have a pear-shaped body, and your fat is likely to be subcutaneous.
If most of your fat is in the upper part of your body, the abdominal area, you are likely to have a large amount of visceral fat.
Looking in the mirror is not the only way to know if you might have visceral fat. You can also simply measure the circumference of your waist. If your waist circumference is 35 or more inches if a woman, or 40 or more inches if a man, you likely have a high level of visceral fat.
If you want to be absolutely sure you have visceral fat, you can schedule an MRI with your healthcare provider. Though an MRI is expensive, it will give you a visual look at the amount of visceral fat surrounding your organs.
Skinny Fat: One of the Effects of Visceral Fat that is Invisible
Having a large waist circumference is not always the best way to judge the effects of visceral fat on the body. There was a time when everybody judged one’s health and their risk for health problems based on their level of obvious body fat. In other words, a heavy person was thought to be automatically unhealthy, and a thin person was automatically thought to be healthy.
We now know that this isn’t true. In recent years, the concept of metabolically obese normal weight people came into view. Also known as “skinny fat,” these individuals have too much body fat and not enough muscle. Though they may have a slight pouch to their belly, it is usually not that noticeable. To all appearances, they look thin and healthy.
But underneath this appearance, they have high levels of visceral fat subjecting them to all the potential health problems of an obese individual. This means that thousands of seemingly thin and healthy people are being diagnosed with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes. They may also have cardiovascular disease and strokes.
Being skinny fat is worse than being overweight or obese because those who are thin are typically not screened for obesity-related diseases. After all, their body mass index is normal. Why would doctors worry about them?
The Effects of Visceral Fat on Health
The effects of visceral fat on health are many. Having an excess amount of visceral fat increases your risk for many serious conditions, including:
- Heart Disease
- Abnormal Cholesterol Levels
- High Blood Pressure
- Sexual Dysfunction
- Breast Cancer
- Colorectal Cancer
- Metabolic Syndrome
Causes of Visceral Fat
Though there is a genetic component of visceral fat, the biggest causes of this condition are poor-quality diet and inactivity. Your body is an amazingly complex machine. It knows exactly what to do to keep you healthy, and it knows what to do to heal your body.
The body can handle a large quantity of food with no problem. What it cannot handle are aggressive calories.
You see, not all calories are the same when it comes to being stored as body fat. When you eat, a digestive traffic cop tells calories where to go. How aggressively calories approach this cop determines whether they will be stored as visceral fat or subcutaneous fat.
This digestive traffic cop directs calories to repair, fuel, or fatten us, making sure we have all the nutrients we need to repair our body, give us energy, and keep us from starving. If you have a calm, consistent flow of calories coming into your system, the cop does a great job directing these calories to the places they will do the most good.
But if the digestive cop has to deal with a bunch of aggressive requests all at once, he or she just throws them in the fat cells. For example, when you consume refined carbohydrates and sugars, your body breaks them down into simple sugars (glucose), and then sends it to your bloodstream. Because refined carbs and sugars contain no fiber to slow digestion down, the glucose is absorbed quickly into the bloodstream, and your blood glucose levels rise.
Whenever you eat foods that rapidly increase levels of glucose in your bloodstream (called aggressive calories), your body is likely to store the excess glucose as fat. That’s because your body can only deal with a certain amount of glucose at one time. According to researchers, the body has only around 40 calories of glucose circulating in the bloodstream at a time. Anything that exceeds that amount has to be rapidly cleared from the bloodstream to keep blood sugar levels normal, which means that most of it ends up in the fat cells.
The same effect does not happen if you eat a lot of non-aggressive calories, such as non-starchy vegetables or protein, that gradually enter the bloodstream over several hours. Your digestive traffic cop can deal with them, and the effects of visceral fat will not apply.
5 Healthy Ways to Eliminate the Effects of Visceral Fat in Your Life
There are several ways to eliminate the effects of visceral fat in your life. Here are 6 of the best ways.
Reduce Refined Sugar and Refined Carbohydrate Consumption
One of the best ways to eliminate the effects of visceral fat is to reduce refined sugar and refined carbohydrate consumption. Studies have shown that both may lead to increased visceral fat accumulation.
Refined sugars are processed sugar added to foods. Refined carbs are foods that contain no fiber or nutrients. They are “empty” calories that cause surges in your blood sugar levels that promote visceral fat storage. (Refined carbs include white flour, white bread, white rice, breakfast cereals, sodas, and pastas.)
Limit Ultra-Processed Foods
Ultra-processed foods are chemical concoctions made to look, smell, and taste like real foods. They are food-like products that contain no fiber and few nutrients. Because of their lack of fiber, they are digested quickly, causing a rapid rise in blood glucose levels.
A recent study showed more than half of the average American’s calories are composed of ultra-processed foods, which probably explains why the rates of overweight and obesity — along with the levels of visceral fat — are so high.
10+ servings per day
The fiber in non-starchy vegetables slows their absorption into the bloodstream, stabilizing blood sugar levels. They also contain high amounts of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that nourish your cells.
Here are some examples of great non-starchy vegetables to add to your plate:
3-5 servings per day, 30-55 grams per meal
Nutrient-dense proteins take a long time to digest, meaning they cause a slow rise in blood sugar levels.
Here are some delicious nutrient-dense proteins to try today:
- Cottage Cheese
- Egg Whites
- Grass-Fed Beef
- Nonfat Greek Yogurt
3-6 servings per day
Whole-food fats are satisfying, and like non-starchy vegetables and nutrient-dense proteins, whole-food fats help regulate your blood sugar levels. Plus, if you replace refined carbs and sugars with whole-food fats, your body will start burning your fat stores — and that includes your visceral fat stores!
0-3 servings per day
Enjoy a serving of low-fructose fruit as a between-meal snack or after dinner.
Here are some tasty choices:
Studies show chronic stress increases belly fat, particularly visceral fat. That’s because stress causes increased levels of cortisol, which also cause a release of insulin, a hormone that promotes fat storage.
The best way to counteract cortisol and insulin is to make it a point to regularly de-stress. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
- Take a walk in the park
- Pet your dog. (Studies show pets have a calming effect on their owners.)
- Go out to dinner with friends.
- Watch a marathon of your favorite sitcom. (Studies show laughter really IS the best medicine!)
- Take up a hobby
- Practice deep breathing exercises
- Do a good deed for someone. (Studies show doing something good for someone else raises the level of “feel good” hormones for the doer.)
- Listen to soothing music.
- Soak in a warm bubble bath.
Get Enough Sleep
Sleep deprivation has been linked to an increase of belly fat, and that increased visceral fat. Cortisol also plays a role here, but studies show there are other hormones involved that increase hunger and encourage fat storage when we are sleep deprived.
To avoid the effects of visceral fat, it is imperative you get enough quality sleep. Here are some easy tips to help you do that.
- Turn off the television, computer, and smartphone 1 hour before bedtime. The light from the screen interferes with melatonin production, making your brain think it’s time to be up and active when it’s really time for bed.
- Keep your room dark, allowing no light in, if possible. If necessary, wear a sleep mask. (Any light can interfere with melatonin production.)
- Go to bed at the same time every night. Doing so will train your body to get tired at a particular time each night.
- Drink a cup of soothing, relaxing chamomile tea before bedtime.
- Avoid sleeping in — even on weekend. It is important to stay on a set sleep schedule to be able to consistently achieve a good night’s sleep.
According to a survey commissioned by the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), the majority of U.S. adults — 68% — routinely take dietary supplements. In addition, 84% of those surveyed said they were confident in the “safety, quality, and effectiveness” of dietary supplements.
Are you among the majority of Americans who take supplements and trust their safety, quality, and effectiveness? Though supplements can be beneficial and necessary in some cases, they can also create problems in others. Turns out, there are plenty of reasons to question whether the supplements you’re taking are actually helping or hurting you.
But before discussing potentially negative aspects of dietary supplements, let’s consider the very real need for them.
The Need for Supplements
There were no dietary supplements 100 years ago, nor was there a need for them. People’s diets consisted of “whole foods,” much of it picked from their own gardens. Their meats either came from their own livestock or from the local butcher. My, how times have changed.
Today, the foods we see on our store shelves are often trucked in from hundreds or thousands of miles away. Few people grow their own gardens, much less depend on it for their food. In addition, more than 80% of foods on grocery store shelves is processed. Today’s foods do not have much nutrition, and there are a few reasons for this.
The Industrial Age Made Things Easier – But Not Health
There were a few changes in the late 1800s, early 1900s that made things easier for society but ended up making our foods less healthy.
Industrial agriculture that relies on monoculture, was developed. Monoculture is the practice of growing a single crop on a massive scale. Monoculture farming uses huge quantities of synthetic fertilizer because growing the same crop in the same field depletes the nutrients from the soil. Without those nutrients, that particular crop can’t grow, so fertilizer is necessary to replace these nutrients. Monoculture farming also uses a lot of pesticides because certain weeds and insects are attracted to monoculture crops. Industrial agriculture depletes the nutrients from the soil, and the fertilizer and pesticides contaminate the soil. Industrial farming was seen as a good thing in the beginning, as a way to feed the growing population of the U.S. on a massive scale, but it has contributed to nutrient deficiencies as well as environmental damage.
Processed Food Industry
What nutrients industrialized agriculture didn’t destroy, the processed food industry did. The first heavily processed foods started appearing around 1910, and since then, manufacturers have come up with quicker and “better” ways to give us food-like products. Food processing destroys most nutrients in foods, so all we’re left with are food additives, preservatives, and other harmful chemicals. There are few nutrients left to moderate the negative effects of these food-like products.
The Rise of Fast Foods
The number of fast food restaurants has doubled since the 1970s. It seems as if there is a fast food restaurant on every corner, and Americans take advantage of the convenience of them whenever possible. Fast food restaurants not only offer a variety of processed foods in which most of the nutrients have already been destroyed, but they also overcook or deep fry many of their foods, further destroying these nutrients. To be fair, many fast food restaurants do offer healthier fare, such as salads, but they are not the main items on the menu.
The Result of the Industrial Age? Obesity and other Diseases
It took a while for the processed food industry to become really big — or perhaps it just took that long to affect the public’s health — but the rates of many diseases started growing. From about the mid-‘70s until today, some of these diseases have reached epidemic proportions in the U.S. Some of these diseases include:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Heart disease
In Search of a Healthy Alternative
The higher rates of these and other disease sent people searching for natural remedies and preventative treatments. In the mid-’70s, alternative medicine became a popular pursuit, as did dietary supplement usage.
Dietary supplements are a $30 billion industry, and their profits will only increase. After all, 66% of supplement users in a 2015 survey expect their supplement use to increase within the next five years.
Not that this is necessarily a bad thing. Supplements do offer many health benefits.
The Good Thing About Supplements
The purpose of supplements is to supplement your diet, meaning you should use them to support the nutrients in your diet, not replace them. And this is, indeed, the primary benefit of supplements. They can supply nutrients you’re not getting from your diet.
Supplements can also supply nutrients that in some cases may be difficult or impossible for you to get from your diet in great enough quantities. For instance, research shows that many people have folate deficiencies. Folate is a type of B vitamin essential for cell growth, metabolism, and fetal development, among other important functions. Our bodies do not absorb folate very well, and modern food processing destroys much of the folate content in our foods. Purchasing regular folate supplements at the store will not do you any good because your body will not absorb it very well. However, a new healthy nutraceutical called Vitaae contains a patented form of folate called quatrefolic, clinically proven to be up to 7 times more bioavailable than the folate supplements found on store shelves. In this case, it’s better for you to purchase Vitaae than try to obtain folate through your diet.
Supplements, given in therapeutic doses, can also treat or cure many health conditions. Therapeutic doses of supplements are best prescribed by a holistic health practitioner or medical doctor.
The Bad Thing About Supplements
Despite all their benefits, there are a few drawbacks (bad things) to taking dietary supplements. Here are a few of them.
They are Unregulated
Dietary supplements are unregulated. The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 removed the Food and Drug Administration’s regulation of any substance labeled a dietary supplement. Because supplements are unregulated, there is no way for you to really know what you are getting. Many manufacturers try to cut corners and make money at your expense. Here is what a lack of regulation allows supplement manufacturers to do:
- They may sell supplements without testing them for toxins.
- They may produce them in a factory with poor manufacturing standards, leading to inconsistent quality.
- They may list a dosage on the label that does not match the actual dosage of the supplement.
- They may fill their supplements with harmful additives, gluten, and other fillers that they have not listed on the label. The label may even state the produce is “all natural” and does not contain additives and/or gluten that it DOES contain.
- They may, and often do provide a form of the nutrient that the body does not absorb well. For instance, magnesium oxide is a cheaper form of oxide used by many supplement manufacturers, even though it is not easily absorbable by the body.
Supplements Can be Dangerous or Deadly
People tend to think anything natural is okay and that more is better. That’s just not true. It is possible to overdose on dietary supplements, and supplements can also have dangerous interactions with prescription drugs.
Here are some dangers of supplements.
St. John’s Wort: This herb is known for effectively treating depression and anxiety. One of its less publicized functions, however, is that it induces liver enzymes. This means St. John’s Wort can reduce blood levels of such medications as Lanoxin, Viagra, and the cholesterol-lowering drug Mevacor.
Ginseng: This herb has been shown to provide a host of health benefits. Unfortunately, it can have severe interactions with prescription and non-prescription drugs. For instance, ginseng increases the bleeding properties of aspirin and ibuprofen. But it can interfere with the blood-thinning effects of Coumadin.
Vitamin E: Though this vitamin is an important part of a healthy diet, taking it in supplement form can be dangerous in certain situations. For instance, because vitamin E thins the blood, taking vitamin E with blood thinning medications increases the effect of those medications. This may increase the risk of bleeding.
Vitamin K: This vitamin has many health benefits, one of which is that it causes blood to clot. This is not such a great benefit, however, if you’re taking blood thinners.
Fish Oil: This is one of the most popular supplements. Fish oil contains high amounts of omega-3 fatty oils, which provide many health benefits. However, they also thin the blood, so you should not take this supplement with blood thinners or before surgery.
Ginkgo Biloba: This herb has been used to treat many health conditions. However, it is not so good for people taking anticonvulsant medicines to control seizures. Taking high doses of ginkgo biloba could reduce the strength of some anticonvulsant medications.
How to Safely Take Supplements
Talk to Your Doctor
Though it is true that most medical doctors do not attend many classes in nutrition during medical school, many of them do know enough to help you make the right decision. If you think a supplement might help your condition, talk to your doctor before you do anything else. If the doctor doesn’t know the answer, he or she will find out what you need to know.
Even if you don’t want or need your doctor to help you make a decision, though, it is always wise to tell your doctor what supplements you are taking. That way, your doctor can tell you whether a certain supplement might negatively affect your health condition, or whether it will interact with any of your medications.
Do Your Research
Before taking supplements, read about their health benefits and risks. Check for possible side effects and interactions with other supplements and drugs. Check how they may interact in your diet. After all, some supplements are better absorbed with food, others without. While you’re doing research, check online to see if there have been any complaints about the manufacturer.
Check for Seals of Approval
One good way to know if the product has the correct ingredients is to see if it has a seal of approval from NSF International, ConsumerLab.Com, or U.S. Pharmacopeia. These independent organizations test to see if the labeled ingredients are actually in the product.
Eat a Healthy Diet First, Take Supplements Only When Needed
An even better way to manage your supplement usage is to get most of your nutrients through a healthy diet. After all, supplements cannot duplicate all the nutrients and benefits of eating whole foods. Eat healthy foods first, and then take supplements only when needed.
By switching to a healthy diet, you will be able to get most of the nutrients you need. You see, a healthy diet emphasizes whole foods, which have high levels of nutrients still intact. The basic rule of thumb is to avoid heavily processed foods as much as possible. You can do this by shopping the perimeter of the grocery store, where you’ll find the meats and produce. (The center aisles are where you’ll find all those processed, “food-like products.” Avoid it like the plague!)
To ensure you’re getting even more nutrients, increase your consumption of organic foods and organic, grass-fed meats, wild-caught seafood, or free-range eggs and poultry. Then enjoy wonderful, nutritious healthy meals.
Here are the 4 healthy food groups:
10+ servings per day. Fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables at each meal. Such a large number of servings are recommended because the fiber fills you up fast and keeps you full longer, and it ensures you receive all the nutrition your body needs. Vegetables contain large quantities of antioxidants and loads of vitamins and minerals.
3-5 servings per day, 30-50 mg per meal. Consuming this much protein per meal triggers muscle protein synthesis, allowing you to build more lean muscle mass faster. Protein also contains B-vitamins, vitamin E, iron, zinc, magnesium, and much more.
Whole-Food Fats. 3-6 servings per day. Whole-food fats are also very filling, and they provide protein and a variety of healing vitamins and minerals.
Low-fructose fruits. 0-3 servings per day. Sometimes it’s nice to enjoy a sweet snack, and low-fructose fruits are a healthy and delicious way to do that.
If you’re wondering how to improve your blood pressure, you probably discovered that you have high blood pressure during a routine doctor’s visit. This is a likely assumption because low blood pressure is not a health risk unless it is extremely low or is causing symptoms, such as dizziness or fainting. Because low blood pressure is not usually dangerous, this article will focus on high blood pressure, also called hypertension. Continue reading “How to Improve Your Blood Pressure: Is it Really Worth the Effort?”
If you suffer from Diabesity — or worry you might develop this disease — weight loss hormones are probably not at the top of your list of treatment options. In fact, weight loss hormones may have never crossed your mind as a weapon against Diabesity. Why? Because “experts” seldom mention weight loss hormones in the context of preventing or reversing Diabesity. Continue reading “Diabesity: Top 5 Weight Loss Hormones”
Have you noticed the effects of processed foods in your life? Do you have a craving for the same foods, and do you keep eating the same processed foods over and over? Continue reading “The Effects of Processed Foods”
Superfoods are nutrient-dense foods, meaning they contain more nutrients per calorie than do other foods. They provide megadoses of essential nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, amino acids, antioxidants. Continue reading “12 Superfoods You Need to Add to Your Diet”
It’s a common story. A woman is physically active, has a nice figure, and has never had problems controlling her weight. She prides herself on having a high metabolism. Then, in her late 30s, early 40s, she suddenly has a belly. Continue reading “5 Ways to Increase Your Metabolism During Menopause and Lose Weight”
The weight rallied around you, and before you knew it, you were back to where you started – only worse. You had gained 10 extra pounds. You likely felt guilty, blamed yourself, wondered what was wrong with you. Continue reading “Is a Slow Metabolism the Real Cause of Diabesity?”