Feb. 1 (UPI) -- The fat that poses the biggest danger to a person's health isn't visible outside of the body, but inside of it, a new study says.
Exercise and medicine are the most helpful for getting rid of visceral fat, according to a study published Friday in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
"Visceral fat can affect local organs or the entire body system. Systemically it can affect your heart and liver, as well as abdominal organs," said Ian J. Neeland, assistant professor of internal medicine University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and study senior author, in a press release. "When studies use weight or body mass index as a metric, we don't know if the interventions are reducing fat everywhere in the body, or just near the surface."
Visceral fats are also known as an "active organ," which sends chemical signals to other body parts. These fats can secrete chemicals that can be dangerous to the heart and other vital organs.
"The location and type of fat is important. If you just measure weight or BMI, you can underestimate the benefit to your health of losing weight," Neeland said. "Exercise can actually melt visceral fat."
The study monitored 3,602 participants over six months and measured their results with a CT or MRI exam. The participants had an average age of 54 and BMI of 31. About 65 percent of the participants were women.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that close to 40 percent of adults in the U.S. are obese.
"Some people who are obese get heart disease, diabetes, or metabolic syndrome -- and others don't," Neeland said. "Our study suggests that a combination of approaches can help lower visceral fat and potentially prevent these diseases."