It is normal for adults, especially those in their middle years, to have an increased amount of fat in the body compared to body weight. This is more evident in women compared to men, particularly during menopause when extra pounds in the body tend to build up around the midsection. In the past, this physical change in the body was considered to be inevitable and a normal part during the postmenopausal stages. However, recent studies show that belly fat is actually directly related to health risk and the more belly fat one has, the higher the health risk of the individual too.
Belly fat or fat in the visceral part of the abdomen lies deep in the abdominal cavity where it cushions the spaces between the abdominal organs. The presence of belly fat or visceral fat has been linked to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and breast cancer. Studies show that belly fat is also associated with the risk of undergoing a gallbladder surgery.
Why Fat Develops in the Abdomen
Fat that accumulates in the lower part of the body is known as subcutaneous fat while fats in the abdominal area are visceral fats. There are different factors that can affect where fats in the body end up including heredity and hormones. Estrogen and cortisol are two hormones believed to affect fat accumulation in the body. According to research, the drop in estrogen levels during menopause and the increase in androgen hormones is linked to increased belly fat after menopause. The drop in estrogen is also believed to cause an increase in cortisol, a stress hormone that promotes fat accumulation in the abdomen.
Measuring Belly Fat
As more studies indicate the relationship of belly fat and health risks, researchers are trying to find ways to effectively measure abdominal fat in order to compare it with age and weight gain. Computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging are two of the most accurate tests for abdominal fat measurement although these tests tend to be expensive and are not commonly utilized during routine health examinations. Waist circumference is also a good measure of abdominal fat and is easier to measure. Studies show evidence that waist circumference is a more reliable predictor of health risks compared to body mass index which only gives a measure of total fat in the body.
How to Lose Belly Fat
Knowing how to reduce belly fat and how to lose weight are important to reduce the health risks associated with increased abdominal girth. Preventing belly fat starts with effective weight control and this is possible through regular exercise. Physical activity of at least 30 minutes to 1 hour can help control weight. The activity should be at least moderate in intensity to provide health benefits. Exercising with weights can also be more effective in losing belly fat compared to spot exercising like sit-ups which only tend to firm up the abdominal muscles while leaving visceral fat intact.
Aside from exercising, proper diet is also important in getting rid of belly fat. Complex carbohydrates such as whole grains and fruits are better compared to simple carbohydrates like white bread and white rice. Choose lean protein like fish and replace saturated fats in the diet with unsaturated fats. Aside from food choices, it is also important to pay attention to portion size in order to maintain a healthy weight.