By October 19, 2011

What Causes Belly Fat?

The most common question for anyone with a protruding belly or overhanging love handles is: how can I get rid of it? But while we’d all like to know how to lose belly fat fast, understanding the causes – and the dangers belly fat can cause – is essential to our good health.

Excess fat anywhere on the body isn’t good. But experts agree that belly fat is the worst kind of all. Belly fat is sneaky, because there are two kinds. The first is the subcutaneous fat just under the skin. This is the stuff you can pinch. The second kind of belly fat lurks hidden deep within the abdomen, and can affect even those of us within a healthy weight range. This hidden or visceral fat surrounds the internal organs and is directly linked to serious health conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke and some types of cancer. If you are over 35 and can pinch more than an inch, you likely have both types of belly fat and your health is at risk.

So what are the main causes of belly fat? And what steps can we take to prevent them?

Lifestyle

If you’re constantly slumped in front of the TV, chances are you’ll have a big belly to show for your non-efforts. But belly fat is not just for couch potatoes. Most of us rely on modern conveniences and mobile transportation, and more of us are working all day sat down in front of computers. It’s thought that nearly half of adult Americans are considered sedentary, having no regular physical activity.

As well as lack of exercise, we’ve become a society of junk food junkies accustomed to super-size portions.

Changing bad habits and re-educating ourselves to eat well and take regular exercise is the single most important thing we can do to lose belly fat.

Stress-Related Hormones

Another major cause of belly fat is the stress of everyday living. When we stress we increase our levels of cortisol – a stress hormone that promotes the accumulation of abdominal fat. Even if your weight is under control, if your coritsol level is high, your belly may still bulge. Lack of sleep can also trigger an increase in cortisol and inhibit the production of insulin, which can interfere with the body’s ability to burn calories.

The best way to control your stress-related hormones is by better managing everyday pressures and anxieties through regular exercise, stress-reduction techniques and sufficient sleep.

Age

As we get older, we tend to decrease our physical activity, lose muscle mass and our metabolism slows down. The result? The infamous “middle-age spread”. Menopausal women have an additional disadvantage of hormonal changes, causing insulin levels to rise and thyroid levels to drop. After the age of 40, extra pounds shift from the lower body and resettle in the midsection.

We can’t stop the clock, but we can battle middle-age spread and the associated health risks with regular exercise and a healthy diet.

Knowledge is Power

Understanding the causes of belly fat can help us beat the battle of the stomach bulge. If you know your health is at risk, you’re more likely to do something about it. The good news about belly fat is that it’s usually the first to go when you lose weight. So the answer to this serious problem is relatively simple, and one you’ll have heard a thousand times before: eat less and exercise more.