Visceral Fat

Visceral fat is the most dangerous kind

Visceral Fat is the Most Dangerous Kind of Fat

Visceral fat is fat around the viscera (internal organs). Visceral fat is far more dangerous to human health than subcutaneous fat (fat that we can see just under the skin). Visceral fat is associated with metabolic syndrome which is itself associated with type 2 diabetes, heart disease, chronic inflammation and many other health problems.


The so-called "waist to hip ratio" is simply your waist circumference divided by your hip circumference. Here's how to check it:
  1. Carefully measure your waist by wrapping (having someone help is easier) the tape around your belly. Make sure the tape crosses directly over your navel and remains even with that all the way around. 
  2. Feel the outside of your hips for the topmost part of the bone. Using the tape measure, repeat step one in the new location
How to measure your waist to hip ratio
Now, using a calculator if you like, divide the waist measurement by the hip measurement. The number you get IS you waist to hip ratio.

How to Measure Your Waist to Hip Ratio

Waist to hip ratio is the key to answering this question. You can use the box to the right to help you check.

How to Interpret Your Waist to Hip Ratio

Here is the generally accepted interpretation of waist to hip ratio:

If you are female and your waist to hip ratio is higher than 0.85 (0.9 for men), then you have excessive visceral fat and probably face excessive risk for its complications (see above). If your ratio falls well below these numbers, you are likely much healthier.

What to do if you have too Much Visceral Fat

The simple answer is, of course, "lose weight". Except, as I have argued on this website so many times, there is nothing simple about that. But weight loss is really the only solution. 


Waist circumference. The simplest way to check for abdominal fat is to measure your waist. Wrap a tape measure around your waist at about the level of your navel.  Breathe minimally, and make sure not to pull the tape measure so tight that it depresses the skin. In women with a BMI of 25–34.9, a waist circumference greater than 35 inches is considered high risk, although research suggests there is some extra health risk at any size greater than 33 inches. A study in the September 2006 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that in women, a large waist was correlated with diabetes risk — even when BMI was in the normal range (18.5–24.9). Since abdominal fat can be a problem despite a normal BMI, health assessments should include both BMI and waist circumference. The relationship between waist circumference and health risk varies by ethnic group. For example, in Asian women, a waist circumference above 31.5 inches is considered a health risk.

Why is Visceral Fat More Dangerous Than Other Kinds?

The truth is that we don't really know. But this much IS understood: even though visceral fat LOOKS the same (grossly and under the microscope) it is not at all the same tissue as other types of fat. There is something "different" about visceral fat that makes it more dangerous.