By Olabode Aderemi Temitayo
Pot belly or abdominal obesity, is also known as central obesity, is when excessive abdominal fat around the stomach and abdomen has built up to the extent that it is likely to have a negative impact on health. As we get older, our body fat tends to increase, and usually the increase is around your midsection. A growing pot belly not only makes it difficult to zip a pair of jeans, but it’s also not good for your health. Tummy fat may contribute to health problems, but you can lose the belly and improve your overall health by following a healthy diet and exercise plan. There is a strong correlation between central obesity and cardiovascular disease.
What is Belly Fat?
The two types of fat in your body are subcutaneous fat and visceral fat. Subcutaneous fat is the fat you can pinch. And, in addition to contributing to your pot belly, this type of fat is also the fat on your hips and butt.
However, visceral fat is the primary contributor to your growing mid-section. This type of fat is found deep in your abdominal area, surrounding your vital organs. Visceral fat is linked to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, breast cancer in women and gallbladder problems. While extra fat anywhere on your body is no good for your health, visceral fat is especially concerning.
Central obesity is associated with a statistically higher risk of heart disease, hypertension, insulin resistance, and Diabetes Mellitus Type 2. With an increase in the waist to hip ratio and overall waist circumference the risk of death increases as well. Metabolic syndrome is associated with abdominal obesity, blood lipid disorders, inflammation, insulin resistance, full-blown diabetes, and increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease. It is now generally believed that intra-abdominal fat is the depot that conveys the biggest health risk.
Central obesity can be a feature of lipodystrophies, a group of diseases that is either inherited, or due to secondary causes (often protease inhibitors, a group of medications against AIDS). Central obesity is a symptom of Cushing’s syndrome and is also common in patients with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Central obesity is associated with glucose intolerance and dyslipidemia. Once dyslipidemia becomes a severe problem, an individual’s abdominal cavity would generate elevated free fatty acid flux to the liver. The effect of abdominal adiposity occurs not just in those who are obese, but also affects people who are non-obese and it also contributes to insulin sensitivity.
There are numerous theories as to the exact cause and mechanism in Type 2 Diabetes. Central obesity is known to predispose individuals for insulin resistance. Abdominal fat is especially active hormonally, secreting a group of hormones called adipokines that may possibly impair glucose tolerance. But adiponectin which is found in lower concentration in obese and diabetic individuals has shown to be beneficial and protective in Type 2 diabetes mellitus.
Insulin resistance is a major feature of Diabetes Mellitus Type 2 (T2DM), and central obesity is correlated with both insulin resistance and T2DM itself. Increased adiposity (obesity) raises serum resistin levels, which in turn directly correlate to insulin resistance. Studies have also confirmed a direct correlation between resistin levels and T2DM. And it is waistline adipose tissue (central obesity) which seems to be the foremost type of fat deposits contributing to rising levels of serum resistin. Conversely, serum resistin levels have been found to decline with decreased adiposity following medical treatment.
Developing asthma due to abdominal obesity is also a main concern. As a result of breathing at low lung volume, the muscles are tighter and the airway is narrower. It is commonly seen that people who are obese breathe quickly and often, while inhaling small volumes of air. People with obesity are also more likely to be hospitalized for asthma. A study has stated that 75% of patients treated for asthma in the emergency room were either overweight or obese.
Based on studies, it is evident that obesity has a strong association with vascular and metabolic disease which could potentially be linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Recent studies have also shown an association between mid-life obesity and dementia, but the relationship between later life obesity and dementia is less clear. A study by Debette et al. (2010) examining over 700 adults found evidence to suggest higher volumes of visceral fat, regardless of overall weight, were associated with smaller brain volumes and increased risk of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease and abdominal obesity has a strong correlation and with metabolic factors added in, the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease was even higher. Based on logistic regression analyses, it was found that obesity was associated with an almost 10-fold increase risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
NUMEROUS MEASURES THAT YOU CAN TAKE TO GET RID OF POT BELLY
Food Choices to Help Trim a Pot Belly
The food you choose is as important as portion control when you’re trying to trim your middle. Fill your plate with more complex carbs such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean proteins such as fish, poultry, beans, soy and low-fat dairy and healthy fats such as oil and nuts, instead of refined carbs and foods high in trans and saturated fat. Filling your diet with these healthier foods also helps reduce your calorie intake.
How you prepare your food is also important when looking for ways to shave calories for weight loss. Instead of frying, bake, broil, roast or steam your food. For example, swapping out a plate of 20 french fries for a small baked potato can save you 45 calories.
Eating foods rich in soluble fibre might help too. A 2012 study published in Obesity found that increasing your intake of soluble fibre decreased accumulation of belly fat. The researchers suggest aiming for 10 grams of soluble fibre a day, which means eating more beans, oatmeal, oranges, Brussel sprouts and flaxseeds.
Drink Choices to Trim a Pot Belly
Your drink choices may also contribute to a growing pot belly. Drinks like soda, sweet tea, fruit juice and alcohol are a concentrated source of calories. Instead, drink water, club soda, unsweetened tea or coffee or sugar-free drinks. Swapping a cup of sweet tea for a cup of unsweetened iced tea or a cup of regular soda for a club soda with lemon can save you more than 100 calories.
If you’re not a fan of plain water, create your own spa water adding slices of cucumber and mint leaves or slices of oranges, lemon and lime to your glass.
Sample Meal Plan
A belly-trimming breakfast might include 1 cup of oatmeal made with 1 cup of nonfat milk, a handful of fresh blueberries and 1 tablespoon of flaxseed with a 6-ounce container of nonfat yogurt. For lunch, try a 6-inch whole-wheat pita stuffed with 1/4 cup of hummus, bean sprouts and shredded carrots with a fresh orange and a bowl of vegetable bean soup. A 4-ounce serving of grilled salmon with 1 cup of roasted sweet potatoes and 1 cup of roasted Brussel sprouts makes a nutrient-rich, low-calorie dinner to help you get rid of your pot belly.
Don’t forget healthy snacks. Good options include a small handful of almonds or walnuts, a fresh apple, a small bowl of unsweetened whole-grain cereal with nonfat milk or baby carrots with Greek yogurt dip.
Exercise to Get Rid of a Pot Belly
Sit-ups alone won’t get you the belly you want, but regular aerobic and strength-training exercises might. The 2014 Obesity study also found that moderately active people were less likely to get a pot belly. Aim for 30 minutes to 60 minutes of aerobic exercise most days of the week to help you trim the fat and lose the belly. Strength-training is also an important part of an all-around healthy lifestyle to help get rid of the pot belly; it should be conducted twice a week, engaging most major muscle groups. If your doctor gives the okay for you to exercise, consult a personal trainer or other exercise expert to help devise a safe, appropriate fitness plan.