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The Risks of Belly Fat

By eHealthIQ
Reviewed: August 24, 2015

The accumulation of belly fat is far more than an aesthetic issue. There are a number of health risks that are directly associated with the accumulation of belly fat. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity has reached epidemic levels, with more than a third of the nation’s population qualifying as obese. To exacerbate the matter, the obesity rate among minors is at 17 percent, which is triple what it was in the 1960s. While reducing all fat is important, it is important to understand that all fat is not created equal. There is one type of fat that is considerably more dangerous than others.

The Different Types of Fat

The fat that is most visible — the type that lies just below the skin on most of the human body — is known as subcutaneous fat; however, the fat that is in the belly area is called visceral fat. It is called visceral fat because it accumulates in and around the human viscera — internal organs that include the intestines and stomach.

The problem with visceral fat is that it produces body toxins that have the capacity to negatively impact the manner in which the body performs its normal functions, impacting the kidneys, liver, pancreas and more.

One of the most dangerous toxins produced by visceral fat is cytokines, which significantly boost the chance of heart disease and also promote insulin resistance, which can be a precursor to diabetes.

Hidden Health Risks

According to WebMD, the fact that visceral fat originates in the orifices within the body, the absence of a substantial amount of visible fat can give a person a false sense of security as far as their health is concerned. What makes this even scarier is the fact that by the time a person recognizes that they have belly fat, it will have been accumulating for some time.

Assessing the risk is actually rather simple. Even if belly fat is not visible, its presence will cause the waist to expand. Health experts suggest that the easiest method for assessing risk is to use a tape measure to measure the waist — the larger the number the greater the risk. For women, a waist measure of 35 inches or more is cause for concern, while a 40 inch waist for men should send up a red flag.

In addition to heart disease and insulin resistance, the existence of visceral or belly fat include a higher risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, colorectal cancer and sleep apnea.

The Role of Age and Genetics

The primary factor that impacts weight gain in the form of fat is the balancing of energy consumed in the form of calories burned, and calories consumed. When a person’s caloric intake exceeds the rate at which they burn calories, they will begin to accumulate fat, as this is how the body stores excess calories.

However, age and genetics also play a role in the development of visceral fat. The older a person gets, the slower their metabolism will be, increasing the necessity to increase physical activity. Genetics will also impact the natural proclivity to gain weight and where the fat will be stored.

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