Exercise Key to Losing Hidden Fat


Exercise is the most effective way to reduce deep abdominal fat, according to a new study.

The study looked at whether medication or lifestyle changes had the most impact on the amount of visceral fat people have.

Visceral fat

Visceral fat is fat that surrounds the internal organs in the abdomen, including the liver, pancreas and intestines. The other type of fat in the body is subcutaneous fat. This is fat that is stored just under the skin and can be felt. Visceral fat is ‘hidden fat’.

Having too much deep abdominal fat can impact how the hormones in the body work, and can cause serious health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. 

Waist measurement

The most accurate way to find out whether someone has too much visceral fat is through a CT or MRI scan. However, measuring a person’s waist can also be a good indicator of the amount of abdominal fat they have.

Health experts advise that people should try and lose weight if their waist measures more than 94cm (37 inches) for men and 80cm (31.5 inches) for women.

Previous studies have found that even in relatively slim people, carrying fat around the stomach can be dangerous to health – this is thought to be due to inflammation to the vital organs.

Reduction in fat

This new study from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in the US involved analysing two ways of losing deep-lying fat in the belly – exercise and medicine.

The researchers evaluated changes in visceral fat in over 3,000 people involved in 17 trials in various different countries. Visceral fat levels were measured via scans.

The results showed that both exercise and medication resulted in less visceral fat, but the reduction was more significant in those who undertook exercise.

Prevent disease

The researchers explain that just using body mass index (BMI) to measure weight is not effective, as it can underestimate the levels of visceral fat. Dr Ian Neeland, one of the authors of the study, said: “When studies use weight or body mass index as a metric, we don’t know if the interventions are reducing fat everywhere in the body, or just near the surface.

“Some people who are obese get heart disease, diabetes or metabolic syndrome – and others don’t. Our study suggests that a combination of approaches can help lower visceral fat and potentially prevent these diseases.”


This article was written by a third party source and does not reflect the views or opinions of Ramsay Health Care unless explicitly stated.

Additional comments on the page from individual Consultants do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of other Consultants or Ramsay Health Care.

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