What are the causes of belly fat? Without knowing the root cause, it is virtually impossible to implement a sustainable solution. Genetics and age contribute, but there is little we can do about these. Menopause and low testosterone have both been associated with increased belly fat. There are many contributing factors we can address such as the foods we eat, daily stress, our body’s hormones and being sedentary.
Today’s known causes of belly fat:
High Fructose Corn Syrup
It is hard to escape this ultra-sweet table sugar substitute, one of the leading causes of belly fat. One of the challenges is recognizing it. It’s often used in prepared foods without our knowledge. High fructose corn syrup is a cheap source of sweetness frequently used in processed foods and ready-made options, including sugary drinks, cookies and candies. Fruits are also a source of fructose but in much smaller amounts. Our bodies are not equipped to deal with the excessive amounts of fructose infused in our diets and, as a result, the body converts the excess into belly fat.
Processed and Manufactured Foods and Snacks
These are foods typically manufactured in factories or plants. They are stripped of most of their nutrients including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. Fiber helps us feel full and is critical to lowering the glycemic index of food. High glycemic foods seem satisfying in the moment but are in fact responsible for hunger, cravings and fatigue an hour or so after being consumed. Additionally, processed foods are often high in hidden pro-inflammatory Omega 6 fatty acids derived from plants which are a source of hidden calories. The inflammation from Omega 6 fatty acids is thought to be responsible for many chronic diseases. Processed foods are usually high in sodium, which contributes to adverse health conditions such as hypertension and for many, over eating.
Sweets, Soda and an Overabundance of Fruit Juices
Most people are aware that sweets and soda contribute to weight gain but many don’t recognize that fruit juices are also causes of belly fat. Fruit juices are generally high in sugar even though they offer the benefits of supplying vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. A small glass per day once belly fat is reduced is OK but avoid making fruit juices your beverage of choice. As mentioned previously, soda and many manufactured foods are made with high fructose corn syrup which is a prime contributor to belly fat. That same sweetener makes it into fruit juice drinks. Check the label.
High Glycemic Index Foods
Potatoes, refined grains, refined rice and processed foods. These foods cause high amounts of sugars to be released into the bloodstream quickly, even though they enter the body as starches. Starches are essentially sugars linked together. The easier they are broken down and digested, the quicker the sugar is released in the bloodstream. If the sugars aren’t promptly used as fuel by muscles or converted into glycogen by the liver the body has no other option than to turn the sugar into fat.
High Fat Dairy
If too much fat goes in, too much fat goes on. High fat cheeses, ice cream and coffee cream all have amounts of fat that we recommend avoiding for people trying to lose weight. Just like any other fat, high fat concentrations in dairy products can be another one of the causes of belly fat.
Although nuts are a healthy snack, providing substantial health benefits, they are calorie dense. If overeaten, they can contribute to obesity. For someone with a weight loss goal, eating nuts isn’t recommended. Once you’re at your target weight, small portions are suggested for a healthy diet.
Menopause, males with Low Testosterone and high Cortisol are all associated with increased formation of belly fat. If the body’s hormones that regulate metabolism and sustaining muscle mass are deficient, patients frequently report having low energy levels and weight gain. These two symptoms produce a vicious cycle. The fatigue causes more sedentary behavior which causes weight gain which then causes more fatigue. Disease states associated with excess cortisol production lead to increased belly fat.
The hormone cortisol is increased with stress and ultimately contributes to obesity and causes belly fat. High cortisol levels magnify the effects of insulin resistance which not only impairs our ability to burn fat but causes our body to make even more fat. Cortisol leads to an increase in abdomen girth by causing the formation of belly fat.
Being sedentary tends to lead to weight gain and the accumulation of fat. If you don’t burn calories through activity then calories are stored as fat. Moving the body is good, but vigorous cardiovascular exercise and weight training exercises are even better. Whatever exercises you’re going to engage in, eating a low glycemic balanced diet is critical to maintaining target weight. It is virtually impossible to compensate for eating a high glycemic diet and an abundance of processed foods with more exercise indefinitely, it just doesn’t work that way. Exercise without proper diet might make you stronger, and burn more calories, but if your body isn’t getting the proper balance of nutrients it needs, ultimately you’ll feel hungrier and probably reach for some of the foods we listed here. For sustainable weight loss results you can’t do one without the other.
If you’re trying to lose weight, know that it’s not about vanity, but about being healthier and feeling better as a result. Knowing how to lose belly fat is critically important for sustaining good health.