Dr Zoe Williams discusses visceral fat on This Morning
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Visceral fat is fat that is stored deep within the belly, making it difficult to see. A certain amount of it is necessary as it protects and insulates vital organs. However, having too much has been linked to serious health conditions and diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
As would be expected two major contributors to visceral fat are eating unhealthily and not exercising enough.
Therefore, health bodies recommend making changes to these habits to help lower visceral fat.
However, there is another more unusual method that could help achieve this.
According to Eva Katrín Sigurðarsóttir, medical doctor and instructor at Hvammsvík Hot Springs in Iceland, advocated for cold water therapy.
“The benefits of cold water therapy can be both mental and physical,” she said.
“An increase in energy, improved sleep quality, reduced stress levels, heightened focus and determination, increased willpower, reduced inflammation and even a stronger immune system are just a few that have been scientifically proven from regular practice of the Wim Hof Method.”
She explained how immersing yourself in cold water could aid fat loss.
Ms Sigurðarsóttir said: “When the body comes into contact with the extreme cold, it will begin not only the production of brown fat tissue but the transformation of white fat tissue to brown.
“Packed densely with mitochondria, this brown fat tissue generates a significant amount of energy to heat the body and burns calories up to 560 percent faster than white fat tissue.
“The more brown fat tissue an individual has, the more one’s metabolism will increase, resulting in higher weight loss.”
What does research say?
This was backed by a study published in the International Journal of Circumpolar Health in 2022.
It reviewed 104 existing studies on the health benefits of cold water immersion.
Researchers found that many of these studies showed significant effects from cold water swimming on brown fat, also known as “good” fat, which helps burn calories as Ms Sigurðarsóttir said.
This could also help protect against obesity and cardiovascular disease, they said.
The team, from the Arctic University of Norway, further believed cold water immersion could help protect against diabetes.
“Cold water immersion seems to reduce and/or transform body adipose [fat] tissue, as well as reduce insulin resistance and improve insulin sensitivity,” the study said.
“This may have a protective effect against cardiovascular, obesity and other metabolic diseases and could have prophylactic health effects.
“Whether winter swimmers as a group are naturally healthier is unclear. Some of the studies indicate that voluntary exposure to cold water has some beneficial health effects.”
One way to determine whether you have too much visceral fat is by measuring the waist around the belly button.
For women 35 inches or more can signal visceral fat and 40 inches or more for men is an indicator.
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