What Causes Belly Fat?


Quick Answer

The Mayo Clinic explains that the biggest factor in determining belly fat is the balance between calorie expenditure and calorie intake. However, age is also a significant factor because muscle mass decreases while fat increases over time. Gaining and carrying fat around the waist rather than the hips or upper torso can also have a genetic component.

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Full Answer

Belly fat has been linked to an increased risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes. In women, it also increases the risk for breast cancer and the future need for gallbladder surgery. Belly fat, also known as visceral fat, produces hormones that influence the response of cells to insulin and disrupts the normal balance of hormones in the body.

Belly fat is not always immediately obvious. Even people who appear thin can have risky levels of visceral fat. The most accurate way of determining belly-fat levels is through a CT scan or MRI, but using a measuring tape is a cheaper and still accurate method. Men should maintain waistlines of 40 inches or less, and women should maintain one of 35 inches or less, according to WebMD's guidelines. To reduce belly fat, focus on eating a healthy diet, exercising two to three times a week, getting an adequate amount of sleep and managing stress levels.

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