What causes belly fat in women? Doctors break it down

Abdominal fat is a problem for many of us. Despite our best efforts and hours in the gym, losing weight in your belly can be a challenge.

Many women gain weight with age. Metabolism slows down, and because your body doesn’t burn as many calories, the kilos may start to build up gradually. With age, there are many different factors that play a role. Here’s everything you need to know about belly fat development and how to lose it.

The science behind belly fat

Abdominal fat refers to “visceral fat” or “omental fat” – a pad of fat that surrounds the internal organs of the abdominal cavity. Excess is believed to be associated with heart disease and the metabolic syndrome, which includes diabetes and obesity. Fat cells secrete chemicals that change our metabolism.

For example, compared to thigh fat, visceral fat cells are more active because they are a direct source of food for internal organs. Dr. Mike Hoaglin, MD, DrHouse’s Medical Director, explains. They release more inflammatory chemicals called cytokines that hinder weight loss and lower blood sugar, especially when there are too many of them.

Because the abdomen is so close to the liver, it continually sends fat to the liver and then into the bloodstream, which in turn can increase cholesterol and the body’s general markers of inflammation. A high amount of visceral fat also blocks beneficial hormones such as adiponectin, which usually help increase fat burning and lower blood sugar.

What causes belly fat in women?

Stress can also contribute to the distribution of belly fat, adds Dr. Hoaglin. With stress, escape or escape hormones such as cortisol emerge. Cortisol causes our bodies to hold onto fat and sugar even more, and makes belly fat the most active. Genetics also play a role, especially in women as women tend to accumulate viscerally fat.

Related: Belly Fat Can Be Stubborn, But Losing It Is Not Impossible – Here Are 30 Different Ways To Do It

“The main causes of abdominal obesity are poor diet – mainly too much sugar, alcohol and trans fats, and not enough protein” – he says Dr. Mir Ali, MD Bariatric surgeon and medical director of MemorialCare Surgical Weight Loss Center at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California. “Inactivity also plays a key role. Other factors contributing to this are sleep deprivation and genetics. “

How do you know you have too much belly fat?

Waist circumference is a good screening tool to see if you may have excess belly fat. For this purpose, it is even better than the BMI.

Place the tape measure at navel level, around your torso and above your hipbones as you stand up. Make sure the tape is flush with the ground. Breathe out, pull the tape tight, but not sticking into the skin. Overall, cardiovascular and metabolic risks increase when waistlines are greater than 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men, Dr. Hoaglin states.

How To Eliminate Excess Belly Fat?

While we’d love to if we could target places where we’re losing weight, that’s not how losing weight works.

“Unfortunately, you can’t target weight loss in certain areas, such as the abdomen,” says Dr. Ali. “However, overall weight loss will lead to a reduction in trunk obesity.”

1. Limit refined carbohydrates

Refined carbohydrates like sugar and white flour cause insulin levels to spike, which can contribute to more inflammation in network fat and more retention and increase of this fat.

Talk to your doctor about a weight loss plan, Dr. Hoaglin recommends. Your doctor may suggest highlighting foods with a lower glycemic index. It may even recommend starting a ketogenic diet where you focus on healthy fats and proteins and cut carbohydrates significantly.

Related: What is a Weight Loss Diary And Should You Try It? Here’s why it can help

2. Eat foods that are high in fiber and low in sugar

Changing your eating habits and lifestyle is the most effective way to lose belly fat.

A diet high in fiber and protein, as well as low in sugar, is a great place to start, says Dr. Ali. It is also very important to minimize or eliminate alcohol consumption.

3. Get regular sleep and exercise

Improving sleep habits and exercising regularly can lead to a positive reduction in abdominal fat, says Dr. Ali.

4. Reduce your stress

Another important factor is stress. Chronic stress marinates our body in cortisol, the stress hormone, and leads to insulin resistance and the preferential distribution of fat around the abdomen, Dr. Lydia Alexander, MDEnara’s medical director and vice president of the Obesity Drug Association, explains.

Exercising mindfulness, including meditation practices, can be beneficial in reducing abdominal fat.

Next up: Tired of that stubborn bulge around your belly? Stock up on these 40 belly fat burning foods


  • Dr. Mike Hoaglin, medical director of DrHouse

  • Mir Ali, MD, bariatric surgeon and medical director of MemorialCare Surgical Weight Loss Center at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California

  • Dr Lydia Alexander, Chief Medical Officer at Enara & Vice President, Obesity Medicine Association

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