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There are many reasons why people gain belly fat, including poor diet, lack of exercise, and stress. Improving nutrition, increasing activity, reducing stress, and making other lifestyle changes can all help people lose unwanted belly fat.

Belly fat refers to fat around the abdomen. There are two types of belly fat:

  • Visceral: This fat surrounds a person’s organs.
  • Subcutaneous: This is fat that sits under the skin.

Health complications from visceral fat are more harmful than having subcutaneous fat. People can make many lifestyle and dietary changes to lose belly fat.

Why is belly fat dangerous?

Plate full of sugary foods which may cause belly fat
A poor diet can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

Being overweight is one of the leading causes of major diseases.

Excess belly fat can increase the risk of:

Causes of belly fat

Common causes of excess belly fat include the following:

1. Poor diet

Sugary food, such as cakes and candy, and drinks, such as soda and fruit juice, can:

  • cause weight gain
  • slow a person’s metabolism
  • reduce a person’s ability to burn fat

Low-protein, high-carb diets may also affect weight. Protein helps a person feel fuller for longer, and people who do not include lean protein in their diet may eat more food overall.

Trans fats, in particular, can cause inflammation and may lead to obesity. Trans fats are in many foods, including fast food and baked goods, for example, muffins or crackers.

The American Heart Association recommend that people replace trans fats with healthful whole-grain foods, monounsaturated fats, and polyunsaturated fats.

Reading food labels can help a person determine whether their food contains trans fats.

2. Too much alcohol

Consuming excess alcohol can cause a variety of health problems, including liver disease and inflammation.

A 2015 report on alcohol consumption and obesity in the journal Current Obesity Reports indicates that drinking excess alcohol causes males to gain weight around their bellies, though study results in females are inconsistent.

3. Lack of exercise

If a person consumes more calories than they burn off, they will put on weight.

An inactive lifestyle makes it hard for a person to get rid of excess fat, particularly around the abdomen.

4. Stress

A steroid hormone known as cortisol helps the body control and deal with stress. When a person is in a dangerous or high-pressure situation, their body releases cortisol, and this can impact on their metabolism.

People often reach for food for comfort when they feel stressed, and cortisol causes the excess calories to remain around the belly and other areas of the body for later use.

5. Genetics

There is some evidence that a person’s genes can play a part in whether or not they become obese. Scientists think genes can influence behavior, metabolism, and the risk of developing obesity-related diseases.

Similarly, environmental factors and behavior also play a role in the likelihood of people becoming obese.

6. Poor sleep

woman in bed staying up late looking at smart phone
Too little rest can have an impact on well-being.

A study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine links weight gain to short sleep duration, which could lead to an excess of belly fat.

Both poor quality and short duration of sleep can play a part in the development of abdominal fat.

Not getting enough good sleep may, potentially, lead to unhealthful eating behaviors, such as emotional eating.

7. Smoking

Researchers may not consider smoking to be a direct cause of belly fat, but they do believe it to be a risk factor.

A 2012 study published in the journal PloS one showed that, although obesity was the same between smokers and nonsmokers, smokers had more belly and visceral fat than nonsmokers.

How to lose belly fat

By considering the following changes, people may be able to lose their unwanted belly fat:

1. Improve your diet

A healthful, balanced diet can help a person lose weight, and it is also likely to have a positive effect on their overall health.

People should avoid sugar, fatty foods, and refined carbohydrates that have low nutritional content. Instead, they should eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, lean proteins, and complex carbohydrates.

2. Reduce your alcohol consumption

A person trying to lose excess abdominal fat should monitor their alcohol intake. Alcoholic drinks often contain additional sugar, which can contribute to weight gain.

3. Increase your exercise

Man walking his dog to try and lose belly fat
A person can lose belly fat by exercising as part of their daily routine.

A sedentary lifestyle brings with it many serious health problems, including weight gain. People trying to lose weight should include a good amount exercise in their daily routine.

Undertaking both aerobic exercise and strength training can help people tackle their belly fat.

Exercise is most effective if people combine both cardiovascular and high-intensity training alongside weights and resistance training.

4. Get more sunlight

A 2016 review in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health indicates that exposure to sunlight in animals could lead to a reduction in weight gain and metabolic dysfunction.

The review highlights that few studies have looked at the effects of sunlight on humans, in respect of weight gain. It states that more research is required to support the findings so far.

5. Reduce your stress

Stress can cause a person to gain weight. The release of the stress hormone cortisol influences a person’s appetite and could cause them to eat more.

Stress-relieving tactics include mindfulness and meditation, and gentle exercise, such as yoga.

6. Improve your sleep pattern

Sleep is vital to people’s overall health, and too little rest can have a severe impact on well-being.

Sleep’s primary purpose is to allow the body to rest, heal, and recover, but it can also have an impact on a person’s weight.

Getting enough good-quality sleep is essential when a person is trying to shed weight, including belly fat.

7. Quit smoking

Smoking is a risk factor for increased belly fat, as well as many other serious health concerns. Quitting can significantly reduce the risk from excess belly fat, as well as improve overall health.

Takeaway

There is a higher likelihood of various health issues if a person has excess belly fat. Causes include poor diet, lack of exercise, and short or low-quality sleep.

A healthful diet and active lifestyle can help people lose excess belly fat and lower the risk of the problems associated with it.

This information is designed for educational purposes only and should not be used in any other manner. This information is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified health care provider.

A consultation with your health care professional is the proper method to address your health concerns. You are encouraged to consult your health care provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition. Rapid advances in medicine may cause information contained here to become outdated, invalid or subject to debate. Accuracy cannot be guaranteed.

 

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