To understand belly fat we first need to talk about the two kinds of fat. Visceral fat pertains to stored fat in the abdominal area, covering organs like the liver, stomach and intestines. A high level of this type of fat has been associated with an increased risk for chronic diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and cancer. Subcutaneous fat, on the other hand, is the layer of fat beneath the skin. This one is less harmful to our health. Belly fat is mostly visceral fat, but it can also be subcutaneous fat.
There’s a link between high levels of subcutaneous fat and visceral fat. This is why we should focus on a healthy and active lifestyle to reduce both types of fat. That said, here are the factors that can lead to excess belly fat:
While alcohol may have some health benefits, it can also be harmful if you consume too much of it. High alcohol intake leads to liver disease, some kinds of cancer, inflammation and weight gain. Moreover, excessive alcohol consumption results in more visceral fat accumulation.
Sugary foods and beverages increases belly fat. Foods like pastries, cakes, cereals, flavored yogurt are all rich in sugar. Sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) like specialty coffees, soft drinks, energy drinks and fruit juices are known to cause belly fat if consumed in high amounts regularly.
Drinking 2 16 fl. oz. of soda a day means you’re consuming 104g of sugar and 384 calories just for this drink alone. If you drink this same amount daily, that’s 3.1 kg of sugar and 11,520 calories in a month!
3. Trans Fat
Trans fat is often used in packaged foods and baked products to replace lard, butter and other similar ingredients. Artificial trans fats cause inflammation, which in turn can lead to heart disease, insulin resistance, cancer, and other diseases. On the other hand, ruminant trans fats, which are found in dairy and meat, don’t cause the same harmful effects. Trans fat contributes to visceral fat and poor heart health.
4. Sedentary Lifestyle
Prolonged sitting (working, watching TV, etc) increases the risk of health problems and weight gain. Even if you engage in physical activity such as exercise, sitting all day can still lead to an increase in waist circumference in both men and women.
One study found that individuals who sit for over 8 hours a day have a 62% increased risk of obesity compared to people who do so for less than 4 hours a day.
Adults should aim for a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week. Moreover, try to limit prolonged sitting and sedentary behaviors. If you sit in front of your computer all day you should incorporate “5-minute standing breaks” every 30-60 minutes.
When young women reach puberty, estrogen hormones signal the body to store fat on the thighs and hips to prepare the body for pregnancy. This subcutaneous fat isn’t harmful if you look at it from a health perspective, although it can be difficult to lose as you grow older.
One year after a woman’s last menstrual period, menopause occurs and around this time, estrogen levels drop significantly. While menopause is part of the natural aging process, you may want to consider estrogen therapy to lower your risk of abdominal fat storage.
6. Low Protein Diet
Diets containing high levels of protein may promote weight loss by increasing satiety, since the body takes a longer time to digest protein. This nutrient also supports muscle growth, which helps with higher metabolism.
Studies have shown that people who consume a lot of protein are the least likely to have excess belly fat. Another study which was published in 2021 show that older men with greater protein consumption than the recommended daily amount had greater reductions in visceral fat.
Many different factors can increase a person’s likelihood of gaining belly fat. You have the ability to control most of these factors by choosing what to eat and what not to eat, engaging in regular physical activity and managing stress. If you have belly fat and would like to improve your physique, you may also want to consider liposuction or its alternatives like CoolSculpting or Smart Lipo.