Belly fat, or visceral fat, is one of the more dangerous types of fat on your body. Research now indicates that people who carry more central obesity, or fat throughout their stomach area, have a 50% more likelihood of dying from all causes than those who carried their obesity throughout the body. (1)
What causes fat to build up in your belly and around your organs?
Doctors have identified several ways of reducing this visceral fat which point to some of the causes. Interestingly, you can also have a normal weight but still carry visceral fat that increases your risk for heart disease, diabetes and other inflammatory based illnesses.
Hereditary tendencies is one indicator of where the fat in your body will be deposited. If your mother carried greater weight in her hips, thighs or abdomen, you will also more likely carry fat in the same areas.
After menopause, because of the reduction in estrogen production, more women will experience fat deposits in their abdomen. This reduction in estrogen may also be linked to an increase in cortisol levels.
Cortisol is a hormone that is produced in the adrenal glands, located near the kidneys. This hormone is released during specific activities such as fear, stress, exercising, fasting and eating. Cortisol regulates your energy levels by selecting the type of foods your body will use for energy. It will mobilize the fat stores and under stress it can provide the body with protein for energy.
The body secretes more cortisol during stressful periods of time and during those times cortisol will encourage the deposits of fat in the abdomen, also known as belly fat.
At a cellular level, fat tissue has a particular enzyme that is responsible for converting inactive cortisone to active cortisol. The gene for this enzyme is expressed differently in people and is responsible for the increased deposits of belly fat in people who are chronically stressed.
Signs that your cortisol level may be too high include higher amounts of belly fat, insomnia, increased number of colds, low sex drive and bowel symptoms such as irritable bowel syndrome and ulcers.
High levels of insulin may also be responsible for further deposits of fat in the abdomen. Diets that are high in carbohydrates create a spike in blood sugar and therefore a spike in the release of insulin. Insulin resistance in diabetes can be attributed to a lack of exercise, moderate to high alcohol consumption, sugary drinks, fructose. inadequate fat intake, and excess fat around the abdomen.
Armed with the knowledge of what causes belly fat, you can reduce the potential that you’ll suffer from this condition or help to treat the deposits you already have.
(1) Forbes: Why Love Handles and Belly Fat are So Dangerous to Your Health
University of New Mexico: Cortisol Connection
HealthCentral: 6 Signs that Your Cortisol Levels May be Too High
Harvard: Abdominal Fat and What to do About it
Dr. OZ: Reset Your Hormones to Beat Belly Fat
MayoClinic: Belly Fat in Men
EverydayHealth: 10 Ways to Beat Menopausal Belly Fat