Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

How to reduce visceral body fat (hidden fat)

4-minute read

What is visceral body fat?

Visceral body fat, also known as 'hidden' fat, is fat that’s stored deep inside your belly, wrapped around your organs, including the liver and intestines. It makes up about one tenth of all the fat stored in your body.

Most fat is stored underneath the skin and is known as subcutaneous fat. That's the fat you can see and feel when you pinch your skin. The rest of the fat in your body is hidden. That's visceral fat, and it makes your belly stick out or gives you an 'apple' shape.

Fat doesn’t just sit there. It produces chemicals and hormones that can be toxic to the body. Hidden body fat produces more of these substances than fat under the skin so it’s more dangerous. Even in thin people, having a greater proportion of visceral fat carries a range of health risks.

What are the health risks of visceral fat?

Having visceral fat in the belly is a sign of metabolic syndrome, a collection of disorders that include high blood pressure, obesity, high cholesterol and insulin resistance which together increase the risk of stroke, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Having visceral fat in the belly can cause:

ARE YOU AT RISK? — Are you at risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease or kidney disease? Use our Risk Checker to find out.

How do I know if I have visceral fat?

The best way to tell if you have visceral fat is to measure your waist. Your waist measurement is a good indicator of how much fat is deep inside your belly, around your organs. Measuring your Body Mass Index (BMI) is also a good way to tell whether you are carrying too much fat. If you think your waist measurement may be too large, talk to your doctor.

Another way to diagnose visceral fat is to have an MRI scan. However, that’s expensive and your doctor would not normally order a scan to diagnose visceral fat.

NEED TO LOSE WEIGHT? — Use our BMI Calculator to find out if your weight and waist size are in a healthy range.

How can I reduce visceral fat?

The best way to reduce visceral fat is through exercise. Visceral fat responds better to diet and exercise than fat on the hips. Exercise also stops visceral fat from coming back.

Another option is medication, but studies show this is not as effective in reducing visceral fat as exercise. Liposuction does not work to remove visceral fat.

Even though you can’t change your genetics, hormones or your age, you can lose weight and minimise your visceral fat by:

What causes visceral fat?

  • Fat gets stored when you consume too many calories and have too little physical activity. Some people tend to store fat around their belly rather than on the hips because of their genes.
  • In women, getting older can change where the body stores fat. Especially after menopause women’s muscle mass gets less and their fat increases. As women age, they are more likely to develop more visceral fat in the belly, even if they don’t put on weight.
  • In men, age and genetics also play a role in developing visceral fat. Drinking alcohol can also lead to more belly fat in men.

Resources and support

For more information and support, try these resources:

  • Get Healthy is a free telephone service that is available in NSW, Queensland and South Australia that is staffed by qualified health coaches who supports adults to make lifestyle changes regarding healthy eating, physical activity and reaching and/or maintaining a healthy weight.
  • LiveLighter is another program which aims to encourage Australians to make changes to what they eat and drink, and to be more active.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: June 2019

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo