Obesity is a major health issue characterized by an excessive accumulation of body fat. Whenever the energy balance is positive (consuming more calories than you expend), it will collect as fat (also known as “adipose tissue”). It’s possible to accumulate adipose tissue in any region of the body, but it’s precisely the visceral fat, stored in the waist region, which is the most harmful to health.

Visceral fat located near the liver, pancreas, kidneys and intestines will act as a kind of foreign body. It’s interpreted by the body’s immune system as something that should not be there. It’s the most common cause of type 2 diabetes, changes in blood fats and hypertension. All of these pathologies used to be called “Metabolic Syndrome,” which is responsible for decreasing the quantity and quality of life. In addition, visceral obesity is also related to the formation of gallbladder stones, fatty liver, sleep apnea, memory changes due to age and even some cancers. These conditions can also arise for other reasons, so addressing the obesity doesn’t necessarily reduce or eliminate the health risk.

There are numerous tools to diagnose and measure visceral obesity, including ultrasound, computed tomography and more. The easiest measurement to obtain is waist circumference. Today, the tape measure is even more important to estimate someone’s health status than the scale.

To properly measure waist circumference, with the individual standing, the largest perimeter between the last rib and the crest of the iliac bone (the upper-most part of the hip) should be used. For men, the average waist shouldn’t measure more than 37 in. (94 cm). For women, the recommended maximum is 31.5 in. (80 cm). Whenever these numbers are greater than 40.2 in. (102 cm) for men and 35 in. (88 cm) for women, there is a very high risk for developing diabetes or cardiovascular disease.

Adopting a healthy, active lifestyle is the most effective way to address visceral obesity. Nutrition and health professionals recommend:

  1.  Regular aerobic and anaerobic exercise, including walking, dancing, swimming and biking as often as possible.
  2.  Increased high-value protein (soy, egg, lean meat and whey) consumption.
  3.  Include good sources of fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients with antioxidant properties in your daily diet. Good carbs, those with low glycemic index, also are very important.
  4.  Avoid excess calories from simple sugars, sugar-sweetened beverages and fatty food.
  5.  Finally, remember that stress control and good sleep are also important to fighting visceral obesity.

Support your wellbeing and waistline by following these tips.