Surgery to Remove Visceral Belly Fat - Benefits and Risks

Weight problems are increasingly prevalent in society and healthy eating and regular exercise are not always enough to combat them. Plastic surgery like liposuction might be very helpful in removing subcutaneous fat. However, there is another type of fat in the human body known as visceral fat or intraabdominal fat, which might be more difficult to remove. In addition, visceral fat makes you more susceptible to various health problems.

In this article, we will examine visceral belly fat as well as the differences between subcutaneous and visceral fat. We will also share information on a surgical procedure that could help you with visceral fat.

What is visceral fat?

Visceral fat is the fat that build-ups deep inside the abdomen, around the abdominal organs. This kind of fat cannot be pinched but it does expand the waistline and may lead to some medical issues. It is commonly observed in men and is also called beer belly.

The accumulation of visceral fat is most often caused by eating unhealthy foods, a sedentary lifestyle, stress, and sleep deprivation. In addition to those risk factors, genes and hormones can also contribute to weight gain hence visceral belly fat. Furthermore, it is considered the worst kind of fat. In a study, it has been discovered that abdominal fat has the highest future risk of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.

One of the most effective ways to deal with visceral fat is by having a balanced diet and exercise regularly. Cosmetic surgery like liposuction or tummy tuck cannot eliminate it. The good news is that liposuction patients are more likely to maintain healthy visceral fat levels.

The difference between visceral and subcutaneous fat

Visceral fat and subcutaneous fat are the main types of fat that contribute to the formation of abdominal obesity. You should know the differences between them to ensure you are treating them appropriately.

Subcutaneous fat

  • Subcutaneous fat lies below the skin, outside of your abdominal muscles. Subcutaneous fat is what defines how you look.
  • It is not really as dangerous as visceral fat. However, subcutaneous fat can negatively impact your appearance. This is why a lot of people undergo surgical removal of this type of fat.
  • The subcutaneous fat is easy to feel and see because you can pinch the skin and feel the fat beneath the skin.
  • Plastic surgery involving liposuction or a tummy tuck can be highly beneficial when it comes to reducing subcutaneous adipose tissue. However, if you are overweight, you will need to lose weight and then undergo any body contouring treatments.

Visceral fat

  • This type of fat is deep inside the abdominal cavity, close to the internal organs such as the heart, liver, and so on.
  • A high visceral fat level is associated with health problems such as heart disease, metabolic syndrome, liver damage, high cholesterol, and insulin-resistant diabetes.
  • You can't easily see how much visceral fat you have. It can only be visualized with advanced imaging techniques, such as CT and MRI scans.
  • Visceral fat cells release their metabolic byproducts such as fatty acids into the circulation which goes straight into the liver for storage. Additionally, it generates inflammation by releasing interleukin 6 or IL-6, which is associated with inflammation and ageing.
  • This type of fat cannot be removed through cosmetic surgery. Changing your eating and sleeping habits, as well as working out regularly, is the only way to get rid of it.

Quick facts about human body fat

  • Fat plays an important role in the health and function of the human body. Nevertheless, it can only provide benefits when it is within a normal range.
  • Women's essential fat requirements are different from men's. The ideal body fat range for males is 8-19%, while the ideal range for women is 21-33%. Individuals with higher than normal body fat levels are called overweight or obese.
  • In the human body, not all fat is the same. In the body, there are several types of fat, but the major two are subcutaneous and visceral. They have different locations and require different treatments.
  • Fat beneath the skin or subcutaneous fat is suspectable to surgical removal through procedures like liposuction and tummy tuck. However, the patient must first reach close to a healthy weight before undergoing any of these surgeries.
  • The removal of visceral fat can be achieved through an appropriate diet and exercise program. There is also a surgical procedure that can help eliminate this type of fat, called bariatric surgery. More on that, later.

How do you reduce visceral fat?

Weight loss is the key to reducing visceral belly fat. Eating a low-calorie, nutritious diet and exercising regularly are the two main ways for reaching this goal.

Well balanced diet

healthy food

As long as you burn more calories than you consume, you will lose visceral fat. You can speed up the process by cutting out trans fats (the major component of processed foods) from your diet and adding more protein-rich foods. This will help you increase your metabolism, hence lose weight faster and reduce the fat inside your abdominal wall.

It is generally believed that trans fat-rich diets negatively affect the body resulting in higher levels of body fat and elevated BMI (body mass index). Consequently, high trans-fat diets can contribute to too much visceral fat.

Proper exercise program

obese woman running on a treadmill at gym.

Sedentary living increases the risk of weight gain which ultimately can lead to visceral fat accumulation. If you want to lose this type of fat, though, then you might need to do more than just moving around. Spot exercises such as sit-ups and crunches are not very effective either. It is beneficial to perform these exercises to build abs muscles, but they have very little impact on eliminating extra abdominal fat.

Workouts that can help you melt fat away and get a flatter stomach, are resistance training and high-intensity interval training. The studies show that resistance training is not only good for fat loss and improving your body composition, but it is also effective at breaking down visceral fat stores. High-intensity interval training is also highly effective in reducing intraabdominal fat.

Is there surgery to remove visceral belly fat?

surgeon getting ready for surgery

Bariatric surgery also called weight loss surgery is a procedure that changes the digestive system which in turn help patients to lose weight. Over the years, bariatric surgery has been developed to help people that have failed non-surgical weight loss methods. An operation such as this can reduce the size of the stomach or modify the small intestine to absorb fewer calories. The best candidates for this procedure are people with more visceral fat or severe obesity (with a BMI above 40) who have been unable to lose weight.

There is a high rate of success with this procedure, where 80% of patients achieved their desired weight. Nevertheless, it should be noted that the success of such an operation depends on your ability to make long-term changes to your eating, exercise and sleep habits.

What are the different types of bariatric surgery?

Bariatric surgery can be divided into two types - gastric bypass and sleeve gastrectomy. here we will look at both of them.

Gastric bypass

It is one of the most frequently done weight loss procedures. During the surgery, the stomach is divided and stapled to create a smaller upper pouch about the size of an egg that is separate from the large main stomach. It also involves rerouting the intestines so that the main part of the stomach in the first part of the small intestine is bypassed. As a result, food and digestive juices will travel down separate limbs of the intestines. This altered anatomy allows the individual to consume smaller portions due to a smaller stomach size.

Sleeve gastrectomy

Other options for bariatric surgery include sleeve gastrectomy. This procedure involves viewing the abdomen through laparoscopy. The surgeon uses a stapling device to create a thin vertical sleeve about the size of a banana. Then this excised part of the stomach is removed. This results in decreased hunger and fullness after eating. Bile and pancreatic fluid from the liver and pancreas assist with the digestion of food and allow it to be absorbed in the bowels.

What are the benefits of stomach fat removal surgery?

  • Most people see major improvements in their overall health, especially if they have had a weight-related medical condition.
  • It reduces the chance of having a heart attack, stroke, or heart failure.
  • Another major benefit of this surgery is that it improves type 2 diabetes. Most people report that they need to take fewer diabetes medications after the surgery.
  • If you suffer from sleep apnea your symptoms may greatly improve after bariatric surgery. It is even possible for your sleep apnea to go away completely.
  • It has been shown that bariatric surgery can help lower cholesterol levels.
  • Besides lowering major health risks, many patients report that their overall quality of life greatly improves.

What are the risks of visceral fat removal surgery?

Bariatric surgery has its risks so it is important to talk to your doctor first. Some of the complications associated with this operation include:

  • developing an ulcer
  • a gastric leak is another possible complication
  • loose skin due to the loss of a large amount of weight
  • malnutrition
  • low blood sugar.

Typically people who smoke or drink too much alcohol are at higher risk of developing side effects and complications.

On a final note

If you are considering bariatric surgery make sure you talk to a surgeon who specialised in the field. He/ she will fully explain all possible risks involved in the procedure.

If you are not overweight but you have some fat resistance to exercise and diet then you may want to consider liposuction surgery. In such a case you need to see a board-certified plastic surgeon who will introduce you to all benefits and risks associated with this operation.