Apart from making it hard to zip up your favorite jeans, belly fat can do much more harm. If you are a woman with a waist size of 35 inches or more or a man with a waist size of 40 inches or more, you are at a higher risk of heart problems. Belly fat is present inside a person’s abdominal cavity surrounding the abdominal organs (visceral fat) and under the skin (subcutaneous fat). Subcutaneous fat may be esthetically challenging but is usually harmless. The deeper visceral fat has been linked to many serious diseases, including cancer and dementia.
Before we list the dangers of belly fat, let us understand the common causes of fat accumulation in the abdominal cavity. The causes include:
1) Consuming a diet rich in sugar, low in protein, and high in carbohydrates.
2) Drinking too much alcohol.
4) Inactive lifestyle or lack of exercise.
6) Your genes.
7) Insufficient sleep.
The Dangers of Belly Fat:
Excess visceral fat, also called abdominal obesity, is linked with the following dangerous health problems:
1) Heart Diseases
The visceral fat acts as an endocrine gland and releases various hormones and chemicals. One such chemical called retinol-binding protein 4 (RBP4) has been found to increase the risk of heart attacks and other heart diseases. Excess production of cytokines (protein) by the belly fat causes inflammation, also increasing the risk for heart disease. Fatty acids are also released by belly fat, resulting in low levels of good cholesterol and high levels of bad cholesterol.
2) Insulin Resistance
Insulin, a hormone, regulates blood sugar levels and metabolism of carbohydrates, protein, and fat in the body. Excess belly fat makes the body insensitive to insulin. This disturbs the natural cycle of the body, and more insulin is produced. Excess insulin throws off balance, and the cells in the body do not respond or use glucose from the blood for energy, raising the blood sugar levels. Insulin resistance increases the risk of insulin resistance syndrome or metabolic syndrome, which includes high blood sugar, high blood pressure, and high triglycerides. Metabolic syndrome can lead to heart attack, stroke, or type 2 diabetes.
A recent study showed that specific proteins released from visceral fat could turn non-cancerous cells cancerous. In women, abdominal obesity increases the risk of breast cancer. The cancer cells in the breast, feed on the excess estrogen produced by the body fat. Scientists have also found links between belly fat and colon, esophageal, and pancreatic cancer.
Too much belly fat is believed to cause memory problems and dementia in the long run. A new study showed abdominal obesity could lead to brain shrinkage or lower brain volume, which increases the risk of memory decline. Memory problems and dementia can disrupt your everyday working.
You can prevent these dangerous side effects of belly fat by sticking to a healthy diet, exercising regularly, getting sufficient sleep, and avoiding smoking and alcohol.