How to get rid of visceral fat: Stress hormone cortisol may increase the harmful belly fat

Dr Zoe Williams discusses visceral fat on This Morning

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Visceral fat, or intra-abdominal fat, is found around a person’s liver, intestines, and other internal organs underneath the abdominal wall. Some visceral fat gets stored in the omentum, a flap of tissue under the muscles, which grows harder and thicker as more fat is added. Visceral fat contains more cytokines than subcutaneous fat. These proteins can cause low-level inflammation, increasing the risk for chronic health problems. Visceral fat also releases more retinol-binding protein 4 (RBPR), which can lead to insulin resistance. Having high levels of stress has been shown to increase cortisol and belly fat.

Stress triggers the adrenal glands to produce cortisol.

Evidence shows that high levels of cortisol increase a person’s appetite circulating insulin and promoting abdominal fat storage.

Glucocorticoids and cortisol redistribute fat towards a person’s stomach producing more of a protruding belly even if classified as healthy and produces higher levels of visceral fat.

Cortisol is a crucial hormone produced in the adrenal glands. It helps control blood sugar and metabolism, among other things.

Higher long-term cortisol levels are strongly related to having abdominal obesity.

Chronically stressed people that have increased cortisol are likely to develop abdominal obesity and laboratory studies confirm a clear correlation between cortisol levels and the deposition of deep abdominal fat.

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In a study published in Science Daily, stress being a cause of excess abdominal fat in otherwise slender woman was investigated.

The study looked at how lean women with abdominal fat have exaggerated responses to cortisol.

Cortisol affects fat distribution by causing fat to be stored centrally around the organs, noted the study.

It added: “Cortisol exposure can increase visceral fat.”

The study concluded that non-overweight women who are vulnerable to the effects of stress are more likely to have excess abdominal fat and have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

We also found that women with greater abdominal fat had more negative moods and higher levels of life stress,” said Dr Elissa Epel, lead investigator on the study she conducted while at Yale’s psychology department.

She added: “Greater exposure to life stress or psychological vulnerability to stress may explain their enhanced cortisol reactivity.

“In turn, their cortisol exposure may have led them to accumulate greater abdominal fat.

“Everyone is exposed to stress, but some people may secrete more cortisol than others, and may secrete cortisol each time they face the same stressor.

“We predicted that reacting to the same stressors consistently by secreting cortisol would be related to greater visceral fat.”

Health experts agree that genetics influences where the body stores fat.

Hormones, age, and a person’s stress levels also play a vital role in fat distribution.

Women tend to add more visceral fat after menopause, when oestrogen levels drop.

To get rid of visceral fat there are unfortunately no quick fixes.

Making lifestyle choices with a slow, steady mindset is your best option to help establish long-term positive results.
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