Gaining fat in your stomach is unhealthier than other types of weight gain. It is a risk factor for diseases like metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer. The medical term for unhealthy fat in the belly is “Visceral Fat,” which refers to fat surrounding the liver and other organs in your abdomen. Even normal-weight people with excess belly fat have an increased risk of health problems. Understanding the most common cause of belly fat and making lifestyle modifications can assist in shedding belly fat.
Here are top 10 causes of visceral fat or belly fat:
1. Passive Lifestyle
A sedentary lifestyle is one of the biggest risk factors for poor health. No physical activities increases the rates of obesity, including abdominal obesity. Inactivity also contributes to the regain of belly fat after losing weight.
High-intensity interval training bursts of vigorous activity followed by short periods of gentle activity or rest boasts belly-shrinking benefits. High-intensity exercise seems to be more effective at reducing insulin, triglycerides, and cortisol, and it burns more calories in less time, too. Therefore, inactivity may promote an increase in belly fat. Resistance and aerobic exercise may prevent abdominal fat regain after weight loss.
Genes play a major role in obesity risk. Obesity has a strong genetic component. Offspring of obese parents are much more likely to become obese than offspring of lean parents. Genetics partially influence the tendency to store fat in the abdomen. This includes the gene for the receptor that regulates cortisol and the gene that codes for the leptin receptor, which regulates calorie intake and weight. Genes appear to play a role in high waist-to-hip ratios and storage of excess calories as belly fat. Researchers identified three new genes associated with increased waist-to-hip ratio and abdominal obesity among which two genes are found only in women.
3. Sugary Foods and Beverages
There is a link between high sugar intake and excess belly fat. This may be largely due to the high fructose content of added sugars. Both regular sugar and high-fructose corn syrup are high in fructose. Many people take in more sugar every day than they realize. High-sugar foods include cakes and candies, along with so-called “healthier” choices like muffins and frozen yogurt. Soda, flavored coffee drinks and sweet tea are among the most popular sugar-sweetened beverages. Frequently consuming foods and beverages high in sugar or high-fructose corn syrup may cause belly fat gain. Sodas and other sweet drinks make it easy to consume large doses of sugar in a very short period.
4. Trans Fats
Trans fats are the unhealthiest fats ever. They are created by adding hydrogen to unsaturated fats in order to make them more stable. Trans fats increase inflammation that may drive insulin resistance and the accumulation of belly fat. Diets rich in trans fat cause a redistribution of fat tissue into the abdomen and lead to a higher body weight even when the total dietary calories are controlled. They have been shown to cause inflammation. This can lead to insulin resistance, heart disease and various other diseases. Trans fats are often used to extend the shelf lives of packaged foods, such as muffins, baking mixes and crackers.
5. Stress and Cortisol
The hormone cortisol, which is secreted in response to stress, may lead to increased abdominal fat. This is particularly true in women with higher waist-to-hip ratios. Cortisol is a hormone that is essential for survival. Cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands and is known as a “stress hormone” because it helps your body to mount a stress response. Unfortunately, it can lead to weight gain when produced in excess, especially in the abdominal region. In many people, stress drives overeating. Instead of the excess calories being stored as fat all over the body, cortisol promotes fat storage in the belly.
6. Low-Protein Diets
Getting adequate dietary protein is one of the most important factors in preventing weight gain. High-protein diets make you feel full and satisfied, increase your metabolic rate and lead to a spontaneous reduction in calorie intake. Hormone known as neuropeptide Y leads to increased appetite and promotes belly fat gain. Your levels of NPY increase when your protein intake is low. Low protein intake may drive hunger and belly fat gain. It may also increase the hunger hormone neuropeptide Y. Protein slows down the rate your stomach processes food and delays the passage of the carbohydrates with it. As soon as you add a protein to a carbohydrate, you change it into a slower releasing carbohydrate that keeps your sugar levels at bay.
Alcohol is a very calorie-dense drink, containing 7 calories per gram, which is more calorie dense after fat. Heavy alcohol consumption increases risk of several diseases and is linked to excess belly fat. Body considers alcohol as a toxin and liver makes it a priority to flush it out of the system as soon as it is consumed. So, its regular jobs of metabolizing fat is put temporarily on hold. This naturally leads to increased storage of body fat. In addition, alcohol suppresses fat burning and that excess calories from alcohol are partly stored as belly fat hence the term “beer belly”. Study found that men who consumed more than three drinks per day were 80% more likely to have excess belly fat than men who consumed less alcohol.
8. Fruit Juice
Avoid eating fruit after a meal, as fruit can cause food to ferment in your stomach, leading to bloating and lots of gas. In addition, fruit juice is a high-sugar beverage that can promote insulin resistance and belly fat gain if you drink too much of it.
Even unsweetened 100% fruit juice contains a lot of sugar. Although fruit juice provides some vitamins and minerals, the fructose it contains can drive insulin resistance and promote belly fat gain. It’s another source of liquid calories that’s easy to consume too much of, yet still fails to satisfy your appetite in the same way as solid food
Menopause is the one major unavoidable cause of tummy fat in women. During and after menopause, women tend to accumulate fat around the abdomen because of changes in their hormones.
When Menopause begins in a woman, the amount of estrogen produced by your ovaries drops significantly. This causes the stored fat in your body to migrate from your buttocks, hips and thighs to your waist, and later to be stored in your belly. The majority of women’s bodies, store fat in lower body i.e. in the buttocks, hips and thighs. This is because women have a lot of estrogen in their body. This gives many women the classic “pear” body.
10. Not Enough Sleep
Inadequate sleep is linked with weight gain, which may include abdominal fat. Short sleep or poor-quality sleep can have a negative effect on cortisol balance that may lead to weight gain, including belly fat accumulation.
Sleep disorders may also lead to weight gain. One of the most common disorders, sleep apnea, is a condition in which breathing stops repeatedly during the night due to soft tissue in the throat blocking the airway. Researchers found that obese men with sleep apnea had more abdominal fat than obese men without the disorder.