Belly fat is not without risk

For some it is a piece of jewelry that they wear proudly. Others hold their breath for minutes so that they cannot be seen. Then we are talking about a big belly, sometimes incorrectly called a beer belly. Belly fat does not necessarily have to be related to excessive beer consumption. But beautiful or not, that is certainly not the only question that owners of a big belly have to ask themselves. Round does not necessarily mean healthy. Belly fat can become a real health problem. Fat can accumulate in the abdomen and attach to and between the organs. Belly fat in particular makes our body more susceptible to diabetes and heart problems and therefore poses major risks. But why does a big belly threaten our health?

Belly-related obesity

Losing weight is worth it: five to ten percent less excess weight significantly reduces the risk of complications. For years everything seemed very simple: dangerous apple shape, harmless pear shape, that was the dogma of health experts. “Apple types” who carried the excess kilos, especially around the abdomen, would be at increased risk. Because diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure or a heart attack are typically abdominal-related consequences of being overweight. On the other hand, the “peer types”, especially women, were able to breathe with relief. Their fat layers are preferably deposited on the buttocks and thighs and are probably much less harmful to health.

Adipose tissue: an active organ

Fatty tissue in the abdomen influences various metabolic processes in the body. Already in the 1980s, researchers showed that adipose tissue is not only a passive storage of energy but also a production and turnover site for many hormones and other substances involved in metabolism.

More than 300 of these have now been discovered:

  • such as the satiety hormone leptin, which sends signals to the brain when energy supplies have been replenished and thus helps to prevent obesity;
  • or the fatty tissue called adiponectin, which prevents inflammation of the blood vessels and protects against arteriosclerosis;
  • and there are other substances that, for example, influence the action of insulin and blood clotting or play a role in the regulation of blood pressure and the immune system.

Consider adipose tissue as a gland?

No one has yet understood in detail what exactly happens in and around fat tissue, but some researchers are already speaking of fat as an “endocrine organ”, i.e. a metabolic gland. But how can the strict distinction between harmful belly fat on the one hand and harmless hip fat on the other be explained? Well, the most important task of both is to store excess fat and release it back into the blood if necessary. In addition, the “visceral fat”, as the experts call the deeper abdominal fat that envelops the intestines ( organ fat ), is slightly faster than the subcutaneous fat , which lies directly under the skin, regardless of whether that fat is under the skin of the abdomen, the hips, thighs or buttocks.

Not every belly is the same

Whether a fat belly involves internal organ fat or subcutaneous fatty tissue can only be proven with certainty via a CT or MRI scan. But external signs can also be an indication in that regard: a curve below the belt, even in an otherwise slim person, can indicate more organ fat. If the abdomen hangs in thick folds over the belt, this indicates subcutaneous fatty tissue.

Important: where is the belly fat?

A “chubby” looking belly indicates internal fat pushing the abdominal muscles forward while a pot belly is more caused by subcutaneous fat, but a pot belly does not exclude internal fat.

Why someone develops more internal fat or more subcutaneous fat depends on many factors. Genes play a role, but also sex hormones such as estrogen and testosterone. However, above a certain amount of fat mass, it no longer matters much whether the fat is deep in the abdomen or under the skin. Then there are definitely health problems.

It is therefore recommended that if you are overweight, not only the blood sugar level and blood pressure be checked by the doctor, but also the fat content in the blood . This includes triglycerides, LDL and HDL cholesterol. If the values have changed negatively, this may indicate unhealthy fat, an indication that it is worth considering a different lifestyle.

Lose belly fat

Given the risks of belly fat, it is worth fighting the excess kilos. Contrary to popular belief, losing belly fat is less difficult than many people think. That’s because it is very active in metabolism. But it only works if you pay attention to one crucial rule of thumb : consume more calories than you add to the body. Only then will you lose weight. What counts is therefore a negative energy balance. Anyone who consumes more calories than they expend will gain weight. It does not matter whether the calories are in the form of sugar, fat, carbohydrates or proteins in the body. Anything in excess is stored in the fat cells and deposited on legs, buttocks and stomach. Forget the myths of fattening fruits, foods that are supposed to burn fat, bad carbs and that pesky sugar.

Lose belly fat with exercise and eat less

Losing weight is difficult with exercise alone. You need to jog for at least an hour to burn 500 calories. That doesn’t make much progress. It is therefore recommended to change your diet in combination with exercise. Anyone who develops muscles and stimulates metabolism also burns more calories at rest.

The 6 best tips against belly fat

  • Avoid simple carbohydrates (also called ‘fast sugars’) such as white flour, candy, chips, fast food, soft drinks and alcohol;
  • Prefer whole wheat bread and whole wheat pasta, which will prevent blood sugar levels from rising so quickly;
  • Do endurance sports 3 times a week, 45 minutes each time. You have to get out of breath and sweat;
  • In addition, train the large muscle groups on the legs, buttocks, back and abdomen;
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator as often as possible;
  • Make sure you relax enough because stress hormones also cause belly fat to be stored.

Not everyone needs to lose weight

A certain percentage of all obese people, estimates vary from 10 to 30 percent, never develop diabetes or high blood pressure. And in older people, a certain amount of excess weight has actually proven to be beneficial. It is therefore advisable to first talk to your doctor before you want to lose weight. For those who need to do something about their internal belly fat, there is at least one good news: those who adjust their diet and exercise more will lose a more than proportionate amount of belly fat.

Beer belly or genes: what is the reason for a belly?

If a man carries a pronounced “belly” at the front, an explanation is quickly obvious: a typical beer belly . But is that true? After all, beer provides fewer calories than, for example, red wine, apple juice or milk. Years ago, Czech researchers conducted a study among almost 2,000 men and women and came to the conclusion: beer alone is not the cause of a fat stomach. The fact is that numerous factors determine the distribution of fat over the body


  • sex hormones play an important role in this, which may explain why a belly is considered a typically male phenomenon;
  • But our genes also play a role. If someone is especially sensitive to internal belly fat, this is largely determined by hereditary characteristics.