Belly (Abdominal) Fat FAQs
Reviewed by David Perlstein, MD, FAAP
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Q:Weight loss occurs in the belly before anywhere else. True or False?
A:True. Whether you're an "apple" shape with excess belly fat or a "pear" with wide hips and thighs, when you lose weight, you'll most likely lose proportionately more from the abdominal region than elsewhere. Belly fat is more metabolically active and easier to lose than subcutaneous fat under the skin, especially if you have plenty of it.
Q:What is the medical term for belly (abdominal) fat?
A:Visceral fat. Belly is fat is also called visceral fat, which is found deep in the belly and around internal organs. There is no disputing the fact that visceral fat is the most dangerous for our health. Visceral fat is easy to lose and can be lost without any changes to your diet.
Q:Crunches (sit-ups) will flatten your belly. True or False?
A:False. Hundreds of crunches each day won't flatten your belly if you need to lose weight. If your abdominal muscles aren't covered with excess fat, strengthening them can help you look tighter and thinner, but spot exercises won't banish belly fat.
Q:Women have too much belly fat if their waists are more than 35 inches around. True or False?
A:True. Women with waists that measure more than 35 inches have too much belly fat and may be at risk for heart disease and other conditions. In this situation, the best thing to do is to lose weight.
Q:Men have too much belly fat if their waists are more than 40 inches around. True or False?
A:True. Men with waists that measure more than 40 inches have too much belly fat and may be at risk for heart disease and other conditions. Men in this situation should lose weight.
Q:Eating a diet rich in what helps to reduce fat?
A:Whole grains. Eating a diet rich in whole grains (which also tend to be higher in fiber) helps improve insulin sensitivity. This, in turn, helps the body more efficiently use blood glucose, lowers blood glucose levels, and reduces fat deposition.
Q:Popcorn is considered a whole grain. True or False?
A:True. A whole grain is a grain that still has its outer covering, which is nutritionally rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Examples of whole grains include popcorn, whole grain corn, whole oats/oatmeal, brown rice, whole rye, whole grain barley, wild rice, buckwheat, triticale, bulgur (cracked wheat), millet, quinoa, sorghum, and 100% whole wheat flour. Please note that many commercially available microwave popcorns have additional ingredients which can add calories to these products.
Q:Belly fat acts like an organ in the body. True or False?
A:True. Belly fat doesn't just lay idle at your beltline. Researchers describe it as an active "organ" in your body -- one that churns out hormones and inflammatory substances. Abdominal fat is thought to break down easily into fatty acids, which flow directly into the liver and into muscle. Fats and clots get into the bloodstream, and that sets the stage for diabetes, heart disease, and more.
Q:Can skinny people have hidden belly fat?
A:Yes. Even skinny people can have unhealthy "hidden" belly fat. Research shows that fat may be folded deep inside the belly around the stomach organs, visible only by CT or MRI imaging. This fat puts skinny people at the same health risks as someone with more obvious big girth, researchers say.
Q:What is the "golden path" to belly fat loss?
A:Walking. Exercise such as walking is the golden path to help lose belly fat. Cutting calories is part of it, but physical activity is really the answer. Liposuction can't get rid of enough fat to eliminate the health risks. Bariatric (gastric bypass) surgery, though more effective, is not ideal.
Q:Large bellies have been linked to what condition in men?
A:Erectile dysfunction (impotence). Because belly fat can trigger cardiovascular problems, a large belly has also been linked to erectile dysfunction (ED, impotence) in men over 60 years of age.
Q:Who collects more belly fat: Men or Women?
A:Men. Men tend to collect more belly fat than women, and it starts early in life. In adolescence and post-adolescence, men start collecting abdominal fat. It's one of the reasons men have more coronary disease than women.
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