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Dangerous Effects of Abdominal Fat, Says Science

Expert explains why excess belly fat is dangerous and the health concerns around an expanding waistline. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

An expanding waistline is more unhealthy than you think! Excess belly fat is a sign of visceral fat, which is located deep in your abdomen and wraps around your vital organs, causing serious health issues. Most people don't realize they have it, but it's a hidden health concern not talked about enough. "Too much abdominal fat can lead to several health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, and even certain types of cancer. The good news is that simple lifestyle changes can help reduce your risk of these severe health conditions," Dr. Tomi Mitchell, a Board-Certified Family Physician with Holistic Wellness Strategies tells us.  Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Why Abdominal Fat is Dangerous


Dr. Mitchell says, "There are several reasons why abdominal fat is so dangerous. First, it secretes inflammatory chemicals that can damage blood vessels and contribute to heart disease. Second, it increases insulin resistance, making it more difficult for the body to process sugar and leading to type 2 diabetes. Finally, visceral fat surrounds and presses on the intestines, interfering with the digestive process and increasing the risk for colon cancer. In addition, abdominal fat is more metabolically active than other types of fat, meaning that it is more likely to be used as energy rather than stored in the body.

In addition, too much abdominal fat can cause negative feelings towards ourselves. We start not to feel comfortable in our skin. We may also begin to feel uncomfortable in clothes we used to love wearing. Extra abdominal fat can make these clothes not look their best on our bodies. This can result in a lack of self-confidence, which can be hard to come by. More importantly, we should be aware of the dangerous effects of excess abdominal fat. So not only is it essential for our self-esteem to reduce our abdominal fat, but it is also vital for our health."


What's Too Much Abdominal Fat?

measuring belly fat

Dr. Mitchell explains, "Abdominal fat is measured using a simple waist measurement. A waist measurement of 40 inches or more is considered too much for men. A waist measurement of 35 inches or more is considered too much for women. However, it's important to remember that everyone's body is different, so these numbers are general guidelines. If you're concerned about your abdominal fat levels, talk to your doctor. They can help you develop a plan to lose weight and improve your overall health."


What Should People Know About Abdominal Fat?

flat belly

Dr. Mitchell shares, "Losing abdominal fat can be a challenge, but there are several things you can do to help reduce the amount of fat around your waist. First, try to eat a healthy diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Avoid processed foods and sugary beverages, and get enough protein. In addition, regular exercise is essential for burning calories and losing weight. Cardio activities like walking, jogging, and swimming are particularly effective at helping to reduce abdominal fat. Finally, reduce stress in your life, as chronic stress can lead to weight gain. By following these tips, you can help to slim down your waistline and improve your overall health."


Heart Disease

bad heartbeat

According to Dr. Mitchell, "Abdominal fat increases your risk of heart disease. For example, carrying extra abdominal fat significantly increases your risk of developing heart disease. This type of fat, also known as visceral fat, surrounds your organs and is particularly dangerous to your heart health. Visceral fat produces hormones and other substances that can promote inflammation, raise blood pressure, and increase your risk of blood clots. All these factors can lead to atherosclerosis, a condition in which plaque buildup narrows and hardens your arteries. This narrowing can eventually block blood flow to your heart, leading to a heart attack. In addition, visceral fat is also linked to an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, another significant risk factor for heart disease. Therefore, it's essential to maintain a healthy weight and avoid carrying excess abdominal fat to protect your heart health."



Senior woman checking her blood glucose level.

"Extra abdominal fat increases your chance of diabetes for several reasons," Dr. Mitchell says. "First, it raises your blood sugar levels. Second, it makes your body resistant to insulin. Third, it increases inflammation throughout your body. Each of these factors contributes to a higher risk of developing diabetes. Abdominal fat is dangerous because it is located near vital organs, such as the liver and pancreas. This proximity allows the fat to release harmful chemicals into the body, damaging cells and leading to disease. In particular, these chemicals can disrupt the normal function of the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, leading to diabetes. Additionally, abdominal fat is difficult to lose through diet and exercise, making it a significant risk factor for this chronic condition. While many factors contribute to diabetes, extra abdominal fat is significant. By understanding the link between abdominal fat and diabetes, you can take steps to reduce your risk of this severe disease."


Abdominal Fat Increases Our Risk of Cancer

risk of cancer

Dr. Mitchell states, "Excess abdominal fat is a known risk factor for several types of cancer, including colon, rectal, pancreatic, breast, and endometrial cancers. The mechanisms by which abdominal fat promotes cancer are not fully understood, but several theories exist. One theory is that abdominal fat increases levels of circulating hormones, such as estrogen and insulin, which can promote the growth of cancer cells. Additionally, abdominal fat is known to produce inflammatory substances that can damage DNA and promote the development of cancerous tumors. Finally, excess abdominal fat may also interfere with the body's ability to process and eliminate carcinogens. Together, these factors can significantly increase your risk of developing cancer if you carry excess abdominal fat."

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather