Put simply, belly fat is a killer. We're not talking about subcutaneous fat. We're talking about dangerously deep belly fat called visceral fat. This is the kind of fat that accumulates around vital organs within the abdomen. A normal amount would help pad the areas between organs. An excessive amount, however, starts to mess with metabolism.
This fat is so hidden that even skinny or normal-weight people can have it. You're probably wondering "If you can't see it, why is it so dangerous?" We used to think this fat was a harmless "storage depot" just sitting and waiting to be burned. It turns out these fat cells are biologically active and they can wreak havoc on your metabolism.
Think anatomy! The fat surrounding organs in your abdominal region are so close to the liver. In fact, these excess fatty acids can drain into the liver. LDL cholesterol and triglycerides increase. Insulin loses its effectiveness. This sets the stage for insulin resistance. What's worse, visceral fat can release inflammatory chemicals called cytokines. That doubles the risk of insulin resistance and chronic inflammation.
When those extra pounds from belly fat start "parking themselves" around the belly, one is significantly at risk for chronic disease, especially cardiovascular disease, colon or colorectal cancer, breast cancer for women, metabolic syndrome, gallbladder problems, or an enlarged prostate for men. Believe it or not, it can even affect your memory according to a study presented at an annual meeting for the Society for Neuroscience.
If there's any good news we can share about visceral fat, it's that visceral fat responds well to healthy diets and exercise. If you're not exercising, you're gaining weight - visceral-fat weight - and you're gaining it fast. A Duke University Medical Center study found that after 8 months of physical inactivity subjects had an 8.6% increase in visceral fat. They also found that a weight gain of just 0.6% in women was associated with an 11.6% increase in visceral fat. That's aggressive!
Remember: spot training to trim subcutaneous abdominal fat won't do the job. Aerobic exercise and strength training will complement each other as you fight visceral fat. Fuel both with a quality protein to maximize fat burning.
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