Cosmetic Fat vs Evil Fat:
Understanding and Measuring Visceral Fat
(excerpt from The Four Hour Body)
Think fat is just a pinch on the skin? Think again. The above MRI of a 250-pound woman, compared to a 120-pound woman, shows the large fat deposits around internal organs. The undigested food is a reader-gagging bonus.
Ever wonder how some people, especially older men, can have beer bellies that seem tight as a drum? Distended abdomens that seem like muscle if you poke them? The answer is, to put it bluntly, disgusting: rather than fat under the skin, it’s fat around internal organs that presses the abdominal wall out.
One big issue with skinfolds and ultrasound is that they can only directly measure subcutaneous fat (under the skin) and not what’s called visceral fat (around the organs).
This article explains a low-tech method for estimating the latter, which is particularly important for those over 25% bodyfat or middle-age or older. (In Maev Creaven Nutrition we measure visceral fat, body fat, muscle mass, hydration and more).
The following was contributed by Michael Eades MD and Mary Dan Eades MD.
Recent research has given us a new measurement that found its genesis in CT scan technology. The measurement is called the sagittal abdominal diameter (SAD), and it’s been shown in studies to be one of the best clinical correlates of visceral fat and a good predictor of health risks, including the risk of sudden death in men, even those of normal weight.
Fortunately, we can easily get a handle on what’s inside.
Measuring Your SAD
In the research lab, scientists use a device called a slide beam abdominal caliper to measure the SAD of their subjects. You can make your own homemade version of the device by using a pair of yardsticks or 18-inch rulers. It’s helpful, though not required, to have a second person assist you in making the measurement.
Here is the process:
Lie on the floor on your back, knees drawn up, with feet flat on the floor.
Lay one yardstick or ruler across your abdomen at what appears to be the widest point between the bottom tip of your breastbone and your belly button.
Stand the other yardstick or ruler on end beside your abdomen, with the 0” end on the floor and in a position where the ruler can abut the end of the level ruler laid across your abdomen.
Read the height measurement (in inches) where the bottom of the ruler lying across your abdomen hits the vertical ruler.
This number is your Lying SAD (L-SAD).
Now stand up against a wall, with your heels far enough from the wall that you can press your lower back flat against the wall. Do not suck in your abdomen. Relax normally.
Place one ruler with its 0” end against the wall at your side at the new widest point of your abdomen between the tip of your breast bone and your belly button.
Place the other ruler flat across your abdomen at about that same level.
Try to hold the rulers in place gently, without pressure.
Read the number on the ruler at your side, where the ruler across your abdomen meets it. Try to keep the two rulers perpendicular to each other to get a more accurate reading.
This number is your Standing SAD (S-SAD); record it next to your L-SAD.