Abdominal fat

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As women go through their middle years, their proportion of fat to body weight tends to increase — more than it does in men. Especially at menopause, extra pounds tend to park themselves around the midsection, as the ratio of fat to lean tissue shifts and fat storage begins favoring the upper body over the hips and thighs. Even women who don’t actually gain weight may still gain inches at the waist.

Contents

Why should I be aware of this?

  • When abdominal fat exceed in huge amounts, it will lead to a beer belly shape called apple body shape.
  • Gaining fat in your abdomen is particularly unhealthy when compared with other locations in your body.
  • Excess belly fat increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and certain types of cancers.
  • The good news is that a few lifestyle changes and some targeted abdominal exercises can help you battle your belly bulge.
  • For males this abdominal fat will be the last fat that will disappear. Initially it will get removed from the face and extremities such as arms and legs, and then will get removed from the upper torso, your chest, upper thighs and buttocks, and lastly from the abdomen.

All about abdominal fat

Whether it's because of heredity, hormonal changes or aging-related weight gain, many women notice an increase in belly fat as they grow older — and especially after menopause. Generally speaking, abdominal fat is either visceral (surrounding the abdominal organs) or subcutaneous (lying between the skin and the abdominal wall). Fat located behind the abdominal cavity, called retroperitoneal fat, is generally counted as visceral fat. Several studies indicate that visceral fat is most strongly correlated with risk factors such as insulin resistance, which sets the stage for type 2 diabetes. Some research suggests that the deeper layers of subcutaneous fat may also be involved in insulin resistance (in men but not in women).

Fat accumulated in the lower body (the pear shape) is subcutaneous, while fat in the abdominal area (the apple shape) is largely visceral. Where a woman’s fat ends up is influenced by several factors. Heredity is one: Scientists have identified a number of genes that help determine how many fat cells an individual develops and where these cells are stored (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, April 25, 2006). Hormones are also involved. At menopause, estrogen production decreases and the ratio of androgen (male hormones present in small amounts in women) to estrogen increases — a shift that’s been linked in some studies to increased abdominal fat after menopause. Some researchers suspect that the drop in estrogen levels at menopause is also linked to increased levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that promotes the accumulation of abdominal fat.

Health impact of abdominal fat

Too much belly fat increases your risk of:

Research suggests that fat cells — particularly abdominal fat cells — are biologically active. It’s more accurate to think of fat as an endocrine organ or gland, producing hormones and other substances that can profoundly affect our health. One such hormone is leptin, which is normally released after a meal and dampens appetite. Fat cells also produce the hormone adiponectin, which is thought to influence the response of cells to insulin. Although scientists are still deciphering the roles of individual hormones, it’s becoming clear that excess body fat, especially abdominal fat, disrupts the normal balance and functioning of these hormones.

Scientists are also learning that visceral fat pumps out immune system chemicals called cytokines — for example, tumor necrosis factor and interleukin-6 — that can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease by promoting insulin resistance and low-level chronic inflammation. These and other biochemicals, some not yet identified, are thought to have deleterious effects on cells’ sensitivity to insulin, blood pressure, and blood clotting.

One reason excess visceral fat is so harmful could be its location near the portal vein, which carries blood from the intestinal area to the liver. Substances released by visceral fat, including free fatty acids, enter the portal vein and travel to the liver, where they can influence the production of blood lipids. Visceral fat is directly linked with higher total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol, lower HDL (good) cholesterol, and insulin resistance.

Insulin resistance means that your body’s muscle and liver cells don’t respond adequately to normal levels of insulin, the pancreatic hormone that carries glucose into the body’s cells. Glucose levels in the blood rise, heightening the risk for diabetes. Together, insulin resistance, high blood glucose, excess abdominal fat, unfavorable cholesterol levels (including high triglycerides), and high blood pressure constitute the metabolic syndrome, a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

References

  • Abdominal fat and what to do about it
  • Belly fat in women: How to keep it off
  • What is a Safe Way for Losing Abdominal Fat?
  • How to reduce stomach fat

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