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Belly Fat 101

What is Belly Fat


Two Types of Fat

Subcutaneous Fat - is the soft and jiggly fat that can be pinched and visible under the skin. Most of our body consist of this soft fat and acts as insulation, it provides energy for daily activities and produces helpful molecules to help maintain weight.

Visceral Fat (Intra abdominal fat) - it's the hard fat that is deep in your abdominal cavity and surrounds your organs and is beneath your muscles. This is what makes your belly look distended, such as the "beer belly" look.

This deeper fat is far more dangerous than the soft fat because it produces a large number of molecules that may cause harmful effects such as:

  • high blood pressure

  • increased cholesterol levels

  • heart disease

  • type 2 diabetes

  • certain cancers

  • insulin resistance

  • leptin resistance

More on Adipose Tissue

Belly Fat Culprits

1. In general, a Sedentary Lifestyle and Poor Nutritional Choices are the main causes of obesity. When you eat more, especially processed foods and sugars (empty calories),than you burn off, you will gain the weight including inches all over, especially around your belly. The American Journal of Medicine reports substantial increases in weight and waist circumference in both men and women as physical activity decreased over a 22-year span.

2. Age, Sex, Genetics

  • Age - as you get older, the natural process is losing muscle mass, especially for those who are inactive and don't do physical activities. And as you lose the muscle, you also slow down your metabolism. Therefore, you're unable to burn as many calories. In this state, it's harder to keep in check with your weight as well as keeping the fat off.

  • Sex - Women may notice an increase around their middle, even if they're at their healthy weight, because of menopause. Also, when there is a decrease in estrogen production, the belly fat accumulates.

Read: What Does Estrogen Have To do With Belly Fat

  • Genetics - Sex hormones effect fat distribution in men and women. It is not only hereditary, but certain genes are also associated with belly fat and the effects on women are stronger than men.

Read: Sex Differences in Genomic Drivers of Adipose Distribution and Related Cardiometabolic Disorders

3. Lack of Sleep also is one of the culprits in increasing belly fat.

Research shows that those who sleeps less than 5 hours gain more belly fat compared to those who gets 7-9 hours of sleep.

Causes of Sleep Deprivation

Read: Sleep Deprivation and Obesity Study

4. Stress

Increased production of the hormone cortisol can also lead to visceral (belly fat) gains. When stressed, one tends to reach for chocolates, cookies, candies, chips and other high fat, high carbohydrate foods to relieve their anxiety.

Read: Stress, Cortisol and Abdominal Fat

Refined carbohydrates, including sweets, have been linked to belly fat.

What Causes Belly Fat