How can you tell if your belly fat is visceral or subcutaneous?

Aug 31 , 2022

Danh Nguyen MD

How can you tell if your belly fat is visceral or subcutaneous?

When all your dieting and exercising are failing to slim down your abdomen, you have to ask yourself if you have intra-abdominal (visceral) or subcutaneous fat, as these are harder to burn from exercising because you can't target them as much.

How can you tell if you belly fat is visceral or subcutaneous?

This is important because we target the 2 areas differently.  You can use a skin caliper or simply pinch the skin and feel how far apart your fingers are.

using skin calipers to measure subcutaneous fat
Hmmm.... there's not much there here is it?
pinching your skin to determine if you have subcutaneous fat buildup
Whoooop! There it is!
The space between your fingers indicate how much subcutaneous fat you have.  You can compare it to the skin on your face or wrist, as these areas tend to have less fat. 
Visceral Fat takes a bit more detective work. Visceral fat is the fat that is deposited along side your intestines and internal organs such as liver, pancreas, spleen, etc.  If you're overweight and your doctor reviewed your lab results and mentioned your liver enzymes are elevated, this could be due to "fatty liver."  You can also get an abdominal ultrasound or CT scan to confirm that it is just "fatty liver" and not some other diseases causing the abnormal labs.
Once you confirmed that you are dealing with stubborn subcutaneous fat or visceral fat that you cannot melt away with your consistent dieting and exercising, then it's time to change gears and add a few tricks to your routine.
See the Non Surgical Weight Loss discussion for more details on how your doctor can help you target your subcutaneous or intra-abdominal fat.