Visceral fat: The sleep disorder connected to the hazardous belly fat

Dr Zoe Williams discusses visceral fat on This Morning

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Researchers from Pennsylvania State University, America, investigated whether visceral fat obesity is an independent factor for the sleeping disorder, sleep apnoea. Sleep apnoea is when a person stops breathing momentarily throughout the night. Partners of those affected may be woken up by “gasping, snorting or choking noises”, or “loud snoring”.

Those independently affected by sleep apnoea may wake up a lot during the night.

During the day, the person affected by sleep apnoea may feel very tired, finding it hard to concentrate and has mood swings.

One telling sign of sleep apnoea is if you wake up with a headache first thing in the morning.

In the research paper, the authors noted that sleep apnoea “peaks in middle age”.

For the experiment, all research subjects were monitored in a sleep laboratory.

Measurements of sleep stages, sleep apnoea, and percentage of minimum oxygen saturation were all recorded.

Those who were diagnosed with sleep apnoea had higher levels of visceral fat hormones, such as leptin.

Moreover, those with sleep apnoea had more inflammatory, fatigue-causing, and insulin resistance-producing cytokines.

Patients who suffered from sleep apnoea typically had greater visceral fat stores than other patients who matched their body mass index but didn’t have sleep apnoea.

The researchers concluded that there is a “strong independent association among sleep apnoea, visceral obesity, and insulin resistance”.

Health hazards of visceral fat

Experts at Harvard Medical School pointed out that “visceral fat has been linked to metabolic disturbances”.

Examples include an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

What is cardiovascular disease?

The NHS explained: “Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a general term for conditions affecting the heart or blood vessels.”

Cardiovascular disease includes: heart disease, angina, hypertension, and vascular dementia.

These conditions affect around seven million people in the UK and are a “significant cause of disability and death”.

How to reduce visceral fat and cardiovascular risk

Experts at the Mayo Clinic pointed out that visceral fat responds well to physical exercise.

If you can tailor in 150 minutes of moderate activity each week, where your heart rate is slightly elevated, you can work off that harmful belly fat.

One of the easiest ways to do this is to commit to a brisk walk every day.

As well as moving your body diligently, it’s important to keep your food portion sizes in check.

It is also just as important to make sure that the food you do eat is healthy.

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