Exploring Key Health Metrics: The Importance of Visceral Fat, and Muscle Mass

Exploring Key Health Metrics: The Importance of Visceral Fat, and Muscle Mass

A continuation of identifying and measuring the biomarkers that provide us the most insight into our health. In post #2, I covered biomarkers, such as Lp(a), ApoB, fasting insulin, etc., that are critical indicators of the state of our heart but are rarely measured in annual blood tests. Today, I’d like to highlight some of the physical or anthropometric parameters, such as body weight, BMI, visceral fat and muscle mass, and how these can be very helpful, if analyzed correctly, or significantly misleading, if not. I’ll provide an example of my own numbers at the time of my diagnosis with heart disease versus my numbers today, so as to make the point more clearly.
Body weight encompasses all the components that make up your body – muscles, bones, organs, fat, water, and other tissues. However, the Body Mass Index (BMI) is a more widely used tool to gauge whether your weight is proportionate to your height. However, while BMI can offer an initial insight into your body composition, it doesn't consider the distribution of these components in your body. I want to hone in today on 2 specific markers: visceral fat and muscle mass. Visceral fat, located around internal organs, is associated with an increased likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome, etc. (subcutaneous fat on the other hand is a significantly less dangerous version of fat). Muscle mass refers to the amount of muscle tissue in your body and is typically measured as a percentage of your total body weight. Having a healthy amount of muscle mass is important for better metabolism, improved insulin resistance, reduced risk of osteoporosis and fractures, and improved mobility as we age.

My BMI at the time of my diagnosis was 22.1 (the healthy range of BMI for Caucasians is 18.5 to 24.9 while for South Asians is 18.5 to 23.5). However, my visceral fat was 11 (the healthy range is 2 - 9) and my muscle mass was 65% (anything above 35% - 40% is considered healthy). If I based my healthiness on the basis of BMI alone, I would be considered healthy, but adding in my visceral fat suggested that I was an example of “skinny” fat; thin on the outside but fat on the inside. I want to clarify that this doesn’t mean visceral fat caused my heart disease but rather that it was a marker that was tracking with it and had I been looking for it all along rather than just my BMI, I would have figured out something was wrong pretty early on. Today, my BMI is 21.2 but my visceral fat is at 3 and my muscle mass is at 81%. This paints a much healthier picture.

In a future post, I will provide details about the interventions I undertook to achieve this on the diet side of things but on the exercise side, it included strength training 4 times a week, cardio 2 times a week, and walking for 15 minutes after each meal. So measure your visceral fat and muscle mass % and hope you can follow these interventions! 
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Dr. Anita Joshi: Very nicely explained Nickhil. I have regularly tracked my BMI, visceral fat and muscle mass. Actually also total fat % too. But I guess visceral mass is a better indicator than total body fat %.

Nickhil Jakatdar: Dr. Anita I agree…visceral fat is a better indicator because the subcutaneous component of body fat isn’t as big of a health issue.

Dr. Anita Joshi: Moreover determining these values is non invasive, can be done at home.

Richa Bohra: Dr. Anita Joshi How are you measuring the different fat types (Visc. Vs SC.) at home? Women have more Subcutaneous fat mass and a tendency of pear-shaped obesity Vs men who develop apple-shaped obesity due to more Visceral fat mass. Women tend to develop Apple-shaped obesity post menopause and hence the tendency to become Insulin resistant.

Nickhil Jakatdar: Richa you can purchase a commercial BCA scale on Amazon for between Rs. 2,000 to Rs. 5,000. They aren’t necessarily very accurate relative to a DEXASCAN but they provide a reasonable trend estimate which is very helpful.

Dr. Anita Joshi: Yes Richa I have a scale at home which scans and gives me this information.

Dr. Anita Joshi

Amit chawathe: Thanks Nickhil Jakatdar, have been similarly following Visceral fat and Muscle mass due to help and guidance from Angus John here in Melbourne. Angus has incorporated quarterly scans into my routine and helps me being the markers down. https://evolt360.com/. Thank you for sharing and getting this message out, for me being skinny fat and working in sedentary and high stress environments could lead to significant health challenges later Wish you good health, love and smiles all around ;-)

Nickhil Jakatdar: Thanks Amit. It is a very good idea for everyone to measure their visceral fat and muscle mass on a regular basis. It is a good early warning system for heart disease and diabetes.

Amit chawathe

Nishant Taneja: How to measure visceral fat and muscle mass?

Nickhil Jakatdar: Nishant Taneja you can get a Dexascan for a more accurate view or even the cheaper scale on Amazon from companies like Withings and Renpho give you the right trends even if the accuracy isn’t great.

Nishant Taneja

Vivek Bhuta: Thanks Nickhil, I undertook your geneClinicX program in Pune, which gave me many insights helping me to manage my blood sugar. Keep sharing immensely helpful and informative posts to assist people in managing their diabetes and related health issues.

Nickhil Jakatdar: Vivek Thank you I am glad you found the program useful and now these tips are hopefully practical for you to implement.

Vivek Bhuta

Yaman Kaushik: Nickhil, thanks for this amazing and very helpful post. Your versatile knowledge really amazes me.

Nickhil Jakatdar: Yaman that is very kind of you! Thanks.

Yaman Kaushik

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