Having some fat on your belly is normal. Everyone has some. But having too much of it could be damaging to your health in more ways than one, since belly fat is more dangerous than any other type of fat. There are two types of fat; one is right under your skin (subcutaneous fat), which is often considered harmless. The other is deeper inside and can crowd around your organs. That second type is called visceral (or active) fat.
This type of fat is spaced between the outer abdominal wall and the skin. It produces a high number of beneficial molecules like the hormone leptin, which signals the brain to burn stored fat and repress the appetite. Adiponectin is also released by subcutaneous fat, which regulates the processing of sugars and fat. Too much subcutaneous belly fat can be taxing on the heart, but too much in your thighs or buttocks is considered relatively harmless.
Research shows that visceral fat cells are actually biologically active as part of the endocrine system. They produce high numbers of potentially dangerous molecules that can degrade your overall health. Among the dangers, visceral fat:
- releases free fatty acids into your bloodstream, which affects your cholesterol levels
- secretes RBP4 (retinol-binding protein 4), which is a marker for insulin resistance
- makes cytokines, a protein that triggers low-level inflammation and regulates the immune system is also a potential risk factor for various chronic conditions including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, asthma and dementia
What Causes Belly Fat
Everyone is at risk of subcutaneous and visceral fat, even people who have an appropriate weight for their height and build. Here are a few things that cause fat to collect around your stomach:
1. Too Much Sugar
Sugar can be found in a vast amount of processed food products. Many foods have some form of sugar that consumers may not even suspect is there. People need to rely on processed food for their meals (because of their fast-paced schedules and other reasons) are taking in a lot of sugar, which greatly increases their caloric intake. Experts say that a major cause of many chronic diseases (like diabetes) and obesity is high consumption of sugar.
Drinking sugar-sweetened beverages that are filled with fructose, increases your appetite and helps produce visceral fat. Sweet drinks are more dangerous since liquids don’t make you full the same way solid food does, and you consume the sugar faster when it is in liquid form.
2. Lack Of Sleep
Sleep affects almost every process in our bodies. It helps us recover from injury or illness, or a workout. Studies also indicate sleep is beneficial for is controlling our food cravings. People who sleep 5 hours or less are more prone to gaining weight than those who sleep 7 or more. Some sleep disorders could be potential risk factors, since researchers found that overweight men with sleep apnea had more stomach fat than the ones that didn’t have the disorder.
3. Lack of Physical Activity
In the last few decades, inactivity has become a part of our lifestyles. This is one of the major reasons why there are more overweight and obese people than ever. Avoiding exercise and inactivity increases the likelihood of visceral fat around your stomach, as the body requires some place to put the energy you are taking in without burning it off.
4. Large Amounts of Alcohol
Some alcoholic drinks can actually be beneficial, if consumed in moderation. A glass of red wine a day could help lower the risk of strokes and heart attacks. But if abused, alcohol can cause serious health problems. The infamous “beer belly” forms as a result of storing excess calories that you get from drinking too much alcohol, which can lead to a variety of problems, such as heart disease, fatty liver, erectile dysfunction, and type 2 diabetes.
5. Trans and Saturated Fats
These are bad for your heart and contribute to gaining weight and producing a lot of visceral fat. Food manufacturers don’t have to label trans fats in the ingredients list, but look for hydrogenated vegetable oils and fats.
How to Get Rid of Belly Fat
Luckily, there are many healthy ways to get rid of belly fat.
1. A Balanced Diet
Having the right diet is essential when it comes to burning visceral fat. Eating the right type and amount of food will not only help you with getting rid of belly fat, it will benefit your overall health.
- Keep sugar and fatty foods to a minimum
- Include calcium in your diet – a study shows that women gain less visceral fat if they consume plenty of calcium — although the study also showed that weight gains or losses were not affected
- Eat lean protein such as eggs, nuts, chicken, fish, lean cuts of beef and turkey
- Fruits and vegetables can be healthy substitutes for simple carbohydrates. Look for ones that are full of dietary fibers, since they don’t contribute to weight gain
- Limit your alcohol intake to one glass of red wine per day
- Drink green tea, which contains caffeine and an antioxidant called EGCG. Some studies have found these factors help reduce body fat, while other studies have drawn inconclusive conclusions
Exercising is the considered critical when it comes to losing belly fat. But just training the abdominal muscles won’t do much. Running, swimming and walking work wonders for burning fat. Resistance training (or weight lifting) is very important when it comes to building muscles and preserving them, but it helps with losing weight, too.
3. Healthy Sleep Pattern
Sleeping at least 7 hours a night, and getting enough quality sleep will help with balancing your weight.
4. Track Your Exercise and Calorie Intake
You could use an app or online food tracker, or keep a physical food journal which will help you supervise and keep track of your food intake.
If you’re asking yourself how to get rid of belly fat, the simplest answer would be: change your diet and incorporate daily exercise. This will not only help you burn fat but also make your overall quality of life much better.