Is a Fat Stomach Unhealthy?
Yes. For people with a BMI of 34 or less, a fat belly is regarded as an additional health risk. Fatty tissue which is stored around the stomach and abdomen (sometimes called intra-abdominal, or visceral fat) carries a greater health risk than fat located in the lower body around the butt and thighs. Some health studies show that abdominal fat leads to raised blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, high blood sugar, insulin resistance syndrome (metabolic syndrome X) and heart disease. Because of this, some experts believe that waist circumference and fat-distribution is more important than your actual weight in predicting future health risks.
What Causes a Fat Belly?
Where we store fat (surplus calories) is largely a combination of gender, age and genetic inheritance. Men tend to store fat around their middle (apple shape), whereas women typically store fat around the pelvic region, hips, butt and thighs (pear shape). However, women are prone to develop an apple shape in mid-life, after menopause. This is because the female hormones are present in smaller amounts and so their shape tends to become more ‘male’.
NOTE: To understand how surplus food calories from carbohydrate, fat or protein are converted to body fat and stored in adipose tissue cells, see How We Gain Body Fat (Adipose Tissue).
Stress and Stomach Fat
Some health studies show that abdominal fat can develop as a result of stress. This is because the hormone cortisol is released during stress, and a high level of cortisol in the body appears to stimulate the storage of fat around the belly and abdomen. Researchers at Yale University studied 60 women and found that the more stress they were under, the more fat they stored around their stomachs. So it appears that a fat belly is most likely to develop in stressed men of any age, and older stressed women.
How to Prevent a Fat Belly?
If you are prone to store fat around your middle, the healthiest solution is to maintain a normal weight. By matching your calorie intake to your calorie needs and prevent weight gain, you will prevent the development of any excess fat.
How to Reduce a Fat Stomach?
However, if you already have a fat belly, the best option is to follow a healthy weight loss diet, combined with fitness exercises such as aerobics (to burn extra calories) and a stomach-toning workout to help tighten and strengthen abdominal muscles. That said, reducing a fat stomach takes time – especially if you are an apple-shape. Despite what commercials say, there is no diet-plan or type of exercise that can “target” your fat stomach. So please don’t get impatient. Your fat belly will disappear, I promise.