The Dangers of Belly Fat
Everyone wants toned abs, whether it’s a flat belly for the ladies or a six pack for the men and one of the most common requests in an exercise class is ways to reduce belly fat. We all want shape and definition, but no matter how much you work on your abdominal muscles, it won’t burn the fat away in any significant amount. To reduce fat, you will need a serious cardio workout and a healthy diet, but always remember that the benefits of reducing fat around the mid-section go far beyond the way we look.
Thinking of your spare tyre or muffin top as an aesthetic issue is to neglect the serious nature of the problem. Excess belly fat can be extremely dangerous for your health and can shorten your life expectancy. We all need a certain amount of body fat distributed around our bodies for protection, energy and storage of fat soluble vitamins. This is the type of fat you can see under your skin. The fat stored internally around your mid-section is called visceral fat because it builds up in the spaces around your viscera (the internal organs in the main cavities of the body, especially those in the abdomen).
BELLY FAT LINKED TO DISEASE
People with large midsections are frequent targets for disease. Fat cells regulate metabolic functions and many experts believe fat cells in the belly release especially large amounts of fatty acids, which can wreak havoc on a person’s blood sugar and insulin metabolism. According to Samuel Dagogo-Jack, MD, president of the American Diabetes Association, this visceral fat in your middle makes toxins that affect the way your body works. Among them are chemicals called cytokines that elevate your chances of heart disease and make your body less sensitive to insulin. Insulin is a crucial hormone that helps the body burn energy. When insulin loses its power, the body responds by pumping out more of the hormone, which only throws the system further off balance. Thus, people with extra belly fat are vulnerable to a whole cascade of problems known as insulin resistance syndrome or metabolic syndrome. The syndrome which affects millions of people all over the world comes with a frightening array of potential complications. For one thing, people with insulin resistance often develop type 2 diabetes. They also tend to have high blood pressure and too much bad cholesterol, a recipe for heart disease, according to numerous studies.
Eric Jacobs, PhD, a researcher at the American Cancer Society believes that cytokines also cause inflammation, which can lead to certain cancers such as cancers of the colon, esophagus and pancreas. Among men, a buildup of fat in this area can elevate the risk of sleep apnea, which has serious health repercussions.
THE BENEFIT OF EXERCISE
Lack of exercise is the main cause of excess belly fat. A study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that just eight months of inactivity increased visceral fat by about 9%. However, people who exercised vigorously for eight months reduced their visceral fat by about 8%, an outstanding and worthwhile achievement.
Consider this: a 63.5kgs person (140 pounds) will burn 640 calories in 60 minutes of running at a very manageable 10kph (6mph); that same person will burn 672 calories during a 60-minute bicycle ride between 22.5kps and 26kps (14 and 16mph). To lose 1kg of fat (2.2lbs) you need to burn 7,700 calories. If you were to take the recommended 30 minutes moderate exercise as described above 5 days a week and cut your calories by a modest 500 per day (easier than you think), you could lose 2kgs of fat per month which over a year is a considerable amount.