Belly Fat Buildup: No Middle Ground, Healthwise
By Martha Michael
If you have a little round belly that shakes like a bowl full of jelly, it may be charming at Christmastime. But there’s a far less positive side to carrying extra pounds around your midsection. The development of belly fat is a marker of poor general health, but more specifically, it may mean you’re at risk for contracting diseases such as diabetes.
A Military Approach
An abstract of a peer-reviewed journal by Liebert Publishers says that an increase in fat mass affects your body’s size, but the distribution of fat has more specific risks. For instance, when the abdomen is the area of buildup, you have a greater chance of developing diabetes.
The journal looks at the United States military, where fitness is at the core of its mission. The Army has standards to determine overall health and it includes measurements of your midsection’s size. Of course, you can’t be obese and successfully participate as an active member of the military. The Army has strict fitness standards that are reflected in their abdomen circumference standards and restrictions because they consider it to be indicative of overall health.
“U.S. Army body fat standards may offer practical and reasonable health guidelines suitable for all active Americans that might help stem the increasing prevalence of obesity that is predicted to increase the prevalence of type 2 diabetes,” the article says.
Abdominal fat has long since been considered a marker of general health, but has more specific associations. If we use the Army’s belly fat standards, we may be able to approach obesity and related epidemics more easily.
Sources of Belly Fat
The battle of the bulging waistline is tougher to fight after menopause. For women, fat shifts to the belly as they age, which can cause more than just frustration. Having excess belly fat comes with health risks beyond those generally associated with being overweight, and there are various factors contributing to an expanding waistline.
An article on the Mayo Clinic website discusses the causes of belly fat.
Calorie intake - Thermodynamics is the number one method of attaining or reducing belly fat. If you eat more calories than you burn, you will gain weight. To lose weight, you must burn more calories than you take in.
Hormonal causes - As women get older, a decrease in estrogen may lead to carrying fat in the abdominal area. They also tend to lose muscle mass, leading to a higher body fat percentage.
Visceral Fat - Much of a person’s abdominal fat is visceral, lining the outside of organs, not just the recognizable subcutaneous fat, which is carried below your skin. Visceral fat, or VAT, is the cause of many health issues, such as:
- Heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Abnormal cholesterol
- Breathing problems
Belly Fat and Your Lifestyle
Peer-reviewed studies show that lifestyle choices affect belly fat accumulation, which can be reversed through healthier practices. An author manuscript on the National Institutes of Health website reveals some of the variables affecting fat levels over a five-year period.
Consumption of soluble fiber leads to a direct and dramatic decrease in visceral fat, despite a minimal decrease in cosmetic fat. Participants who increased their soluble fiber intake by 1 percent had a 3.7 percent decrease in their visceral fat accumulation. A lower VAT reduces your risk of dying prematurely from heart disease or other conditions related to belly fat.
The study says that while certain demographics are more likely to carry fat in their belly genetically, lifestyle factors play a vital role. Consuming meat and alcohol, getting less sleep, and a routine with minimal physical activity are all directly correlated with higher visceral fat and accumulation of belly fat.
Another conclusion from the study is that being active over time reduces belly fat and raising your total daily energy expenditure is effective in reducing the likelihood that you’ll get diabetes.
At times we all want to nibble more and work out less, which is fine for a while. But the human body can’t take a permanent holiday from healthy habits because the resulting problems will eventually take some of the charm out of life.
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