Summer is just around the corner, guys. And nothing looks worse than a beer gut hanging over that new Speedo.
But belly fat does more than spoil everyone's day at the beach. It's also associated with a variety of adverse health issues and can be a precursor to other problems — elevated blood glucose values, Type 2 diabetes, elevated blood pressure and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, for example.
"There's an increased risk of heart disease with increasing waist circumference or abdominal fat, and increased risk of overall mortality," warned Dr. Donald Hensrud, the chair of the division of preventive medicine at the Mayo Clinic and the medical editor-in-chief of the Mayo Clinic diet.
In other words: Lose the paunch, and you'll be healthier.
Two Kinds of Fat
Hensrud explained that there are two types of abdominal fat involved, subcutaneous fat and visceral fat.
"Visceral fat is inside the abdominal wall; subcutaneous fan is outside the abdominal wall, the stuff you can grab. It's commonly believed that visceral fat is more harmful, associated with more health risks than subcutaneous fat," he said. "While that's generally true, it's not 100 percent the case. There's some evidence subcutaneous fat isn't as benign as some people think."
Causes of Belly Fat
There are several causes of belly fat.
Genetics can play a role. Being sedentary also contributes. Aging is another factor.
"As people age they tend to accumulate fat around the abdomen," Hensrud said, pointing to a decline in hormone levels (testosterone in men, estrogen in women) that results in the added weight.
Smoking, interestingly, can also be blamed.
"In general, smoking is associated with a lower body weight," he said. "But like alcohol, smokers also tend to carry their weight more in an abdominal distribution. So they might lose weight overall, but — this is generalizing — a smoker might be more likely to be thinner and have a little pot belly."
Genetics, inactivity, age, smoking ... and, of course, alcohol. Yes, we mean beer, and its high calorie content.
"Alcohol prevents the breakdown of fat to some extent, particularly around the abdomen," Hensrud explained. "There seems to be more of an effect from beer rather than wine."
Ways to Lose Belly Fat
There are three ways to combat the beer gut, none of which is a particular revelation. It comes down to the same-old/same-old: diet and exercise.
Cut Down on Your Drinking
Especially the beer. If you're really serious about losing the beer gut, eliminate it altogether and watch your weight slowly drop. If you're not quite that motivated, maybe limit your drinking to weekends. It also would help to switch to light beer, which has around two-thirds the calories of regular beer.
It took years to form such an impressive beer belly; here's how to send it packing.
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