Fat has many protective functions in our body but when it becomes excessive it can become a problem. Also, the storage of fat in some areas of the body is more dangerous than in others. A form of fat called visceral fat when gets accumulated around your waistline, it becomes a matter of concern as studies have shown that excess visceral fat is an important risk factor for many metabolic diseases such as diabetes, fatty liver and cardiovascular disorders.
As per WHO, a waist-to-hip ratio greater than 0.9 in men and 0.85 in women increases the risk of heart diseases and other metabolic conditions. Studies show that people who have fat accumulated around their hips and thighs are at a lower risk of developing chronic diseases than those in whom the fat is concentrated around the belly.
Dangers of visceral fat
What you call belly fat, can be of two types. There is subcutaneous fat which can be felt on pinching. This kind of fat is stored just below the skin and has protective functions. Visceral fat on the other hand is that which surrounds your internal organs and can be found inside your abdominal cavity. This kind of fat is hard to be felt or see. However, a protruding belly and large waistline could be a sign that you might be having an excess of it. Visceral fat is not healthy and if ignored can lead to serious health problems.
Visceral fat is associated with the release of inflammatory chemicals and free fatty acids that might find a way to the liver when they might be released in the blood circulation. These chemicals are known to cause long-lasting inflammation which is a major risk factor behind many chronic conditions, particularly involving the heart and the liver.
As per some studies, the fat stored around hips and thighs is more passive and might release lesser inflammatory chemicals into the blood flow.
Hormonal belly could also be a thing
Sometimes the cause of belly fat is not a diet. It could be an imbalance in your body’s hormones. Any fluctuation in your hormones can result in a fat belly. The reason is that hormones affect many important body functions. For instance, an underactive thyroid gland can slow down metabolism and result in weight gain around the belly. Another example could be a disrupted cortisol level. Cortisol or stress hormone is released when a person is in survival mode. Stressful life situations, whether physical or psychological can make a person stay in a fight or flight mode for extended periods, hence initiating the release of cortisol that is associated with decreased digestive activity. Thus, chronic stress can also result in fat accumulation around the belly.
High oestrogen levels in both males and females are also associated with weight gain.
As per experts, an abdominal girth greater than 102 cm in males and 88 cm in females is often seen as an indicative factor of the pre-diabetic stage. Conditions like PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) are characterized by increasing insulin resistance and also show an increased weight gain around the abdomen.