Having excess body fat can cause a cascade of downstream effects. Specifically, different types of belly fat can be risk factors for diseases like cancer, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, and overall unhappiness.
“Visceral fat” is the medical term used to describe fat typically held around your stomach and the area surrounding the liver and other organs in your abdomen.
If your goal is to learn more about the causes of unwanted belly fat, you’re not alone. Studies have found that among Americans, as many as 91% of adults and 69% of children excess body fat present that impairs health.
Keep reading to learn the seven mistakes you might be making that can cause different types of belly fat.
1. Consuming Too Much Sugar
There’s a good chance that you are consuming more sugar in your food and beverages than you might realize.
There’s obviously a ton of sugar in foods like candy and cake. But there’s also loads of sugar in seemingly healthier foods like frozen yogurt, salad dressings, and condiments like ketchup, for example. As for beverages, flavored coffee drinks, soda, and sweet tea are packed with sugar.
There have been studies that show there is a link between high sugar intake and extra belly fat. This is likely because of the high fructose in these sugar items.
Both regular sugar and high-fructose corn syrup are high in fructose. Regular sugar is actually fifty percent fructose, while high-fructose corn syrup consists of fifty-five percent fructose. So if you’re consuming sugary foods and beverages that are high in fructose, that can be a cause of excess stomach fat.
2. Drinking Excess Alcohol
Consuming alcohol like red wine in moderate amounts could actually lower your risk of strokes and heart attacks. On the other hand, drinking large amounts of alcohol could lead to liver disease, inflammation, and other health problems.
There have even been studies that show drinking alcohol can prevent fat burning, and the excess calories from alcohol are prone to getting stored in your mid-section. This is where the term “beer belly” comes from.
Put simply, drinking excess alcohol increases your risk of numerous diseases and is linked to excess abdominal fat.
3. Eating Trans Fats
Trans fats come in two types. They can either be naturally occurring in animal products, or they can be artificial, usually in the form of hydrogenated vegetable oils. Artificial trans fats are made when hydrogen is added to unsaturated fats to make fats more stable. Trans fats are often in packaged foods like crackers, baking mixes and muffins to extend its shelf life.
It has been shown that artificial trans fat causes inflammation, which can lead to heart disease and insulin resistance. There have also been animal studies that show diets with trans fats leads to excess body fat.
In this study, over the course of six years, monkeys were fed a diet with eight percent trans fat. It was shown these monkeys had thirty-three percent more abdominal fat compared to monkeys that were fed eight percent monounsaturated fat. While both monkey groups were given just enough calories to maintain their weight.
In short, trans fats cause inflammation that can drive up insulin resistant and lead to belly fat. In particular, you’ll want to avoid artificial trans fats if you want to see ab definition.
4. An Inactive Lifestyle
It’s no surprise that an inactive lifestyle, like perhaps you work from home and are glued to a desk all day, is one of the biggest risks for poor health. Over the years, people have become less active, which has to lead to a rise in rates of obesity, like obesity in the abdominal area.
There was even a study that found a correlation between decreased activity and abdominal fat for both men and women.
Another study found that women who watched more than three hours of television a day had twice the risk of “severe abdominal obesity” compared to women who watched less TV.
There was also a study that found if you lose weight, inactivity will cause increased belly fat.
In this study, it was shown that people who worked out by doing aerobic or resistance exercise for a year after losing weight were able to prevent gaining belly fat. While those who remained inactive have a twenty-five to thirty-eight percent chance of getting more belly fat.
If you’re inactive, you’ll likely be storing belly fat, so keep off the belly fat by doing aerobic and resistance (strength training) exercises.
5. Eating Too Little Protein
Having enough protein in your diet can help to prevent weight gain. High protein diets make your body feel satisfied, which can lead to a reduction in your calorie intake. These diets can also increase your metabolic rate .
On the other hand, a diet that is low in protein can lead to gaining fat around the abdomen over time.
There have been many observational studies that suggest people who consume the most amount of protein are the least likely to have any extra belly fat.
If you’re not getting enough protein in your diet (vegans and vegetarians, take note), this could increase your hunger which can lead to extra belly fat.
6. Having The Wrong Gut Bacteria
There are hundreds of different types of bacteria that live in your gut and most of this bacteria is in your colon. While some of these bacteria are good for your health, others can cause problems.
Your gut bacteria are known as microbiome and flora. Gut health is key to keeping up a healthy immune system and preventing disease. But if your gut bacteria isn’t balanced, this could lead to type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart, and other diseases.
There’s even research that suggests an unhealthy balance of gut bacteria can lead to weight gain, including abdominal fat. As it was found that obese people actually have a higher amount of Firmicutes compared to those who are of a normal weight.
This type of bacteria can even increase the number of calories the body absorbs from food. So basically, if you have an imbalance of gut bacteria this could lead to weight gain and belly fat.
7. Needing a Caloric Deficit
Finally, if you want to drop fat that has already accumulated around your abdomen, you’re going to have to eat in a caloric deficit. Personally, I know two good ways to end up in a caloric deficit, one that is simple and one that takes more effort.
The simple approach? Eat a large quantity of vegetables with every meal (more than 2/3rds of your plate), eat moderate amounts of protein, and limit your carbohydrate and fat intake. The reason you need to limit your fat intake (such as nuts, cheeses, egg yolks, and oils) is that fats are very calorically dense at 9 calories per gram.
If you eat 3-5 meals like this per day, many (although not all) people will be at or near a caloric deficient.
The more difficult, yet more accurate, approach to being in a caloric deficit? You can track your food using a food app (like MyFitnessPal or Cronometer) or follow a nutrition plan provided by a Registered Dietitian (RD).
Common Causes of Belly Fat
You can start dropping most types of abdominal fat if you stay focused on the tips above. Start by limiting your intake of sugar, alcohol, fried foods, and processed foods. Make sure to stay as active as possible, get adequate protein, and keep the bacteria in your gut balanced.