Dangers of too much belly fat

Dangers of too much belly fat

More than 60% of adults are currentlyToo much visceral fat overweight and the number of people who suffer from lifestyle related disorders such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and is rising rapidly. To make matters worse, in the western world these diseases are among the leading causes of death. Being overweight or obese is often a central factor in developing diabetes, high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease and both body mass index (BMI) and body composition give a good indication to the risk of developing these disorders. In fact the BMI norms were originally developed based on research that found a connection between body weight relative to body height and risk of developing disease.

However body weight or BMI alone is not a perfect method to determine health risk, since body weight can also consist of muscle tissue which does not increase health risk, on the contrary even. Body fat percentage or body composition is a more accurate method because the amount of fat tissue is measured which has a stronger connection to health risks. However the location where body fat is stored is more important. In short fat can be stored in three areas.

Different fat stores

The most visible one is the subcutaneous fat store which is directly under the skin. Although from an aesthetic standpoint less desirable, subcutaneous fat is not the kind that is very dangerous. Secondly fat can be stored within the muscles, to serve as fuel during prolonged exercise. This storage usually can’t get too large and is not dangerous as well. Lastly there is visceral fat or belly fat, the fat that surrounds the internal organs. Fat that is stored here is very dangerous because it produces inflammatory substances called cytokines.

Normally when there is not too much belly fat, these cytokines are not produced in large quantities and no inflammation is present except when needed. Inflammation is a normal function of the immune system that helps recover from infection and repair tissues when damaged. When present without such a cause, the cytokines damage tissues and organs such as the pancreas, liver and muscles,  by causing systemic low grade inflammation which can lead to diabetes, arteriosclerosis or cardiovascular disease.

What causes visceral fat to increase?

Visceral fat does not only increase by eating more calories than you use and simply gain weight. It is influenced by other lifestyle factors as well. Lack of physical exercise is an important factor. Stress is another important factor. Stress increases cortisol levels and combined with a sedentary lifestyle, abdominal fat stores will increase.

Dangers of too much belly fat

Too much visceral fat increases risk of developing many conditions among these are:

High blood pressure

Cardiovascular  disease

Diabetes mellitus type 2

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease



Colon cancer

Breast cancer


-Almadi, T., Cathers, I., Chow, C.M. Associations among work-related stress, cortisol, inflammation, and metabolic syndrome. Psychophysiology 2013, 50, 821-830.

-Ouchi, N., Parker, J.L., Lugus, J.J., Walsh, K. Adipokines in inflammation and metabolic disease. Nature Reviews Immunology 2011, 11, 85-97.

-Pedersen, K.P. Muscles and their myokines. The Journal of Experimental Biology 2011, 214, 337-346.