Visceral Abdominal Fat

Excessive visceral abdominal fat promotes the development of diseases in the body. Here is a conversation with Dr. Maximilian Schubert, a holistic medicine practitioner at MAYRLIFE Medical Health Resort Altaussee, about the significance and origin of visceral fat and his best tips for reducing it effectively:

Dr. Schubert, why is it so important to reduce visceral fat?

Dr. Schubert: Visceral abdominal fat is primarily located around the liver, pancreas, and kidneys. It plays crucial roles, such as keeping the organs in the right place and acting as a kind of shock absorber. However, the more visceral fat there is, the higher the inflammation in the body. It triggers inflammation, which serves as the basis for physical problems and all sorts of lifestyle diseases. These include high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoarthritis, obesity, kidney failure, and even cancer. In extreme cases, visceral abdominal fat can also accumulate around the large and small intestines and the spleen. The primary organs affected are the liver, pancreas, and kidneys.


Where does the increased accumulation of visceral fat originate?

Dr. Schubert: Visceral abdominal fat generally increases the body's inflammatory potential. The cause of the fat lies in the digestive system. Any toxins generated there are the reason why toxins also subsequently appear throughout the rest of the body. They trigger inflammation and abdominal fat. The critical issue, which many are aware of, is a fatty liver, a common symptom of affluence, which many of us have but few immediately feel. But a fatty liver itself is already a pathological issue. Something that is most definitely not okay.

What most contributes to the formation of visceral abdominal fat?

Dr. Schubert: Lifestyle is primarily to blame. It's not just diet that plays a role, but also smoking, for example. Smoking or nicotine changes fat distribution in a way that can lead to unhealthy abdominal fat. Too much alcohol – often associated with fatty liver – and a lack of vitamin D can also lead to increased abdominal fat. Studies at a Dutch university have shown a link between vitamin D deficiency and an increased risk of a larger waist circumference. The tricky part is that even slim people with a low or normal Body Mass Index can have too much visceral abdominal fat.


Does visceral abdominal fat also have positive properties?

Dr. Schubert: Yes, as already mentioned briefly, it has an important protective function for the internal organs, especially the liver, pancreas, and kidneys. It provides stability to the organs and cushions impacts. Everyone has and needs some visceral abdominal fat; the question is simply how much the person has. It's about having enough of it, though not in excess.

How much is sufficient, and when should a person start to reduce their visceral abdominal fat?

Dr. Schubert: There are various parameters to measure visceral abdominal fat. These help determine whether there is already too much visceral abdominal fat or not. These include triglyceride and cholesterol levels, waist circumference, body weight, and Body Mass Index. What we do at MAYRLIFE Medical Health Resort Altaussee is a bioimpedance analysis (BIA). With this, we can clearly see where fat deposits are and whether abdominal fat is elevated or not.


You mentioned that visceral fat promotes inflammation in the body. What are these processes specifically?

Dr. Schubert: They are primarily so-called “silent” inflammations, triggered in the body by too much visceral abdominal fat. These are associated with diseases such as intestinal disorders, osteoarthritis, autoimmune diseases like rheumatism and diabetes, stroke, coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, cancer, Alzheimer's, and PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome).

Visceral abdominal fat causes disturbances in the endocrine system. For example, cortisol, androgen, or estrogen levels in women or men can get out of balance. In men, for instance, high estrogen levels can lead to breast enlargement, or fewer growth hormones may be secreted, resulting in a smaller stature than might have otherwise been possible.

The problem is that the adipose tissue stores many substances, such as estrogens, cortisol, growth hormones, inflammation factors, and substances like fetuin-A, from which harmful proteins can be formed. If there is too much adipose tissue, too much of these substances is stored, which may subsequently cause health problems.

How can I recognize a tendency to develop visceral abdominal fat?

Dr. Schubert: Besides the BIA measurement I have already mentioned, visceral abdominal fat can also be shown through computer tomography and magnetic resonance imaging. But also Mayr abdominal wall diagnostics, which we conduct here at MAYRLIFE, provide valuable insights. This involves various measurements such as large intestine size, small intestine size, liver edge, various reflex zones, and the angle from the sternum to the symphysis, for example. Every guest at MAYRLIFE Health Resort undergoes such an examination at the beginning and end of their stay.

The goal is to determine the current state of the digestive tract. How much inflammation and gas formation is there, where are the stress points, where are the larger inflammation sites in the abdominal area, how do the liver and kidneys look, are there active reflex zones? This gives us a complementary medical picture of the patient, showing which structures need improvements and which therapies should be applied to best support the body. Some of these values correlate with abdominal fat, allowing us to conclude whether someone has too much of it or not.

What measures are most important if we wish to lose excess visceral abdominal fat?

Dr. Schubert: Primarily, optimizing body weight, healthy eating, and lifestyle are key. Quit smoking, avoid alcohol, ensure adequate vitamin D intake, focus on the right fats – Omega-3 fatty acids – and good sources of carbohydrate like quinoa, millet, and potatoes.

Timing of eating is also important, so eat the right food at the right time. Breakfast like an emperor, lunch like a king, and dinner like a pauper. You can also practice something known as “dinner cancelling”. For example, intermittent fasting may be an excellent strategy, activating the body's self-healing powers. Plenty of exercise and movement are also important, helping to attain and maintain a healthy body weight.

  • "For a healthy supply of protein, aim for a good mix of plant and animal protein and include nuts and pulses in your diet."
    Dr. Maximilian Schubert
    medical director
    at MAYRLIFE Medical Health Resort Altaussee

Which of these measures do you consider most important in order to reduce visceral abdominal fat?

Dr. Schubert: Focus on getting plenty of exercise and cutting out sugar! Exercise because it is the component that is most relevant for fat loss. We see with our guests that it's often not the diet that fails, but rather the fact that there is too little muscle mass. Most have too little muscle; they do too little exercise. More muscle mass means a higher basal metabolic rate, which equates to better fat burning.


Can visceral abdominal fat also have genetic causes?

Dr. Schubert: Yes, genes can play a role. However, there are no tests that can definitively determine a genetic predisposition. Regardless of whether there is a genetic predisposition or not, the same adjustments are needed to reduce visceral abdominal fat or to avoid having too much of it in the first place. It's like owning a Ferrari. Just because I own one doesn't mean I have to drive too fast. That's always my personal decision. The same applies to the influence of genes and visceral abdominal fat. Even if there is a genetic predisposition, it doesn't mean it has to manifest itself. Epigenetics plays a crucial role here – and that can be influenced significantly by lifestyle.

What values are used to measure visceral abdominal fat?

Dr. Schubert: The Gamma-GT, a liver measurement, and triglycerides, along with the Body Mass Index and waist circumference, allow us to generate a fatty liver index, which indicates whether a person has a fatty liver or not. Accordingly, we can conclude that roughly one quarter of all Germans have a fatty liver, due to alcohol and an over-caloric diet. For men, a waist circumference of over 102 centimeters and for women over 88 centimeters is a clear indicator of too much visceral abdominal fat.

How and how quickly does a MAYRLIFE treatment program affect visceral abdominal fat?

Dr. Schubert: Mayr treatment significantly helps reduce excess abdominal fat because the body is introduced to a low-calorie diet. This depletes fat reserves and reduces inflammation potential. That said, it is not a quick process. It takes at least two to three weeks to reduce abdominal fat significantly. The crucial variable is the starting situation and how much abdominal fat you have at the outset.


What are your best tips for maintaining dietary changes, as practiced and taught at MAYRLIFE Altaussee?

Dr. Schubert: It's a mental decision. The right mentality can help you apply the initial treatment phase of about two or three weeks to your whole year. What are two, three weeks, after all, when seen in the light of the remaining 49 or 50 weeks? It is, indeed, absolutely doable and something you can get through. For many, the feel-good factor, noticeable after about a week, is sufficient motivation to stick with it. Try to do the right thing for your body 70 to 80 percent of your time, and you'll already be making a significant contribution to your health and well-being.

Dr. Schubert, thank you for the interview!

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