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Get Rid of Potbelly (Abdominal Obesity, Metabolic Syndrome)

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Organs in the human abdomen

Organs in the human abdomen

Abdominal Obesity

First of all, I would like to point out that we need fat, and that it is one of the largest organs of our body. Fat helps our body to defend against bacteria and viruses. It contributes to our immunity and helps us to recover from injury. Fat is conveniently located beneath the skin and around vital organs where it can protect our body against infection and trauma. And lastly, fats can accommodate any ups and downs in our nutrition.

We all know that fat is stored energy, and if we don't use it, it builds up. Obesity is just an unhealthy build-up of fat deposits in the body, and abdominal obesity is simply an unhealthy build-up of fat deposits in the abdomen.

We still have questions: if we build up a huge amount of fat in our belly, where do our organs go?

Is the fat hard or soft? And how much of it is too much?

Let's take a look inside of our abdomen.

Subcutaneous Fat (Under the Skin) and Visceral Fat (Around the Internal Organs)

Subcutaneous Fat (Under the Skin) and Visceral Fat (Around the Internal Organs)

Three Types of Fat

All fats are derivatives of fatty acids and glycerol. We all have three types of fats in our bodies.

1. Triglycerides

Fat in the bloodstream is called triglycerides. This group of molecules works to facilitate the transfer of fat and blood glucose from the liver to the bloodstream and back. When there is extra fat, the body stores it for later use. When you think of fat being stored in your hips or belly you are thinking triglycerides. Diets high in processed carbohydrates can increase triglyceride levels. High levels of triglycerides are strong risk factors for heart disease. These levels can be reduced by eating omega-3 fatty acids from fish oils, krill oils, or oils from algae, as well as other plant oils like flax seed oil and hemp oil.

Normal triglyceride levels are 150 mg per deciliter of blood.

High triglyceride levels are 200 to 499 mg per deciliter of blood.

2. Subcutaneous Fat

Fatty tissue under the layers of the skin is called subcutaneous fat. Subcutaneous fat also contains large blood vessels and nerves. It plays an important role in our body's functions. Subcutaneous tissue stores fat for use as energy, acts as a shock absorber to cushion the skin against trauma, and protects us from heat loss.

Excess fat is stored in the belly or abdomen, the back of the arm, just below the shoulder blades, on the top front of the legs, and on the hips. This layer of fatty tissue is also called adipose tissue, hypodermis, subcutaneous tissue, or superficial fascia. It makes up about 15-20% of an average person's body weight.

When we pinch and hold a handful of skin, we are holding onto the fatty tissue in the lower layer of skin as well; subcutaneous fat is easy to detect this way, as in "love handles" next to the waist.

Subcutaneous fat can be unsightly. When fat is stored under the skin in excess, "cellulite" is formed, meaning the skin dimples in-between fat deposits. Also, too much subcutaneous fat causes the skin to stretch. But this may surprise you: this type of fat, subcutaneous fat, has not been directly linked to any obesity-related diseases. Of course many people want to lose excess subcutaneous fat for beauty reasons.

If you want to excess subcutaneous fat, a good way is aerobic exercise, as it involves repetitive motion to burn off that stored energy.

Also, correct diet, including fruits, vegetables, lean meats, low fat dairy products, and lots of whole grain products at mealtime and for snacks, reduces subcutaneous fat. On the other hand, overeating on a regular basis compromises all the effort that you put into losing excess fat.

Below is a diagram of a section of our skin showing the three layers, including the "hypodermis" or subcutaneous fatty layer.

Layers of the skin, including the hypodermis

Layers of the skin, including the hypodermis

Visceral Fat in a Person with Potbelly

Visceral Fat in a Person with Potbelly

3. Visceral Fat or Abdominal Fat

Fat that is found deep in the abdomen, as opposed to in the blood or under the skin, is called visceral fat or abdominal fat. This type of fat provides short-term storage for energy; the liver quickly processes the energy from visceral fat to make it ready to accommodate sudden energy needs from the body. The other use for this type of fat is to cushion the organs in the abdominal cavity in case of a trauma. Normally, visceral fat only accounts for about 10% of body fat. But it is the most harmful of all the fats in our body.

This type of fat is also called abdominal fat, as it is confined to the abdominal regions of the body, it is packed between your liver, kidneys, spleen, stomach, and intestines. An excessive increase in visceral fat can cause it to wrap around your organs and prevent them from functioning at their normal capacity. It is semi-fluid and cannot be seen with the naked eye; only an MRI can clearly determine the amount of visceral fat in your abdomen.

Even if you are not obese, but still have a protruding belly, you probably have excessive visceral fat, and therefore you are at a higher-than-average risk of getting blood pressure, cancers, stroke, cardiovascular disease, eating disorders, insulin resistance, and glucose intolerance, which can lead to Type 2 diabetes.

Visceral fat is "active" in the body's chemistry. It pumps out protein molecules that can cause a whole-body inflammatory state. Visceral fat can also cause harm because of its location near the portal vein which carries blood from the intestinal area to the liver. Free fatty acids released from visceral fat enter the portal vein and travel to the liver where they can influence the production of blood fats; this effect can raise the level of "bad" cholesterol and lower the level of "good" cholesterol. Visceral fat also produces hormones and can disrupt the normal balance and function of hormones in our body.

As you can see, obesity caused by abdominal fat—also called central obesity, beer belly, spare tire, or pot belly—becomes very harmful when it accumulates to enormous proportions. This happens when we take in too many calories without expending it through activity. If we eat too much high-fat or high-sugar food and are sedentary, then the food energy is stored in the form of fat. Studies show that stress also contributes to an increase in abdominal fat.

So what can we do about visceral fat? Just as with other fats, 30 - 60 minutes a day of moderate weight-control exercise, i.e. strength training, is recommended (spot training would not help with this type of fat). A change in diet would also be in order: smaller portion size, and more fruits, vegetables, lean meats, whole grains, and fiber.

Fatty liver is associated with abdominal obesity

Fatty liver is associated with abdominal obesity

The Liver and Abdominal Obesity

Believe it or not, our liver also contributes to abdominal obesity. "Fatty liver disease" develops when the liver starts storing toxins and excess fat instead of getting rid of them from the body.

The liver then becomes enlarged. Because it is now storing fats and toxins, it is less effective as a filter for the bloodstream.

We need to love our liver by detoxifying it and keeping it clean. This can be achieved by eating foods like turmeric, green tea, olive oil, and other foods rich in antioxidants, flavonoids, choline, Vitamin C, and sulfur. Also, choose unsaturated fats (mono-unsaturated oils may be as good as or better than processed polyunsaturated oils).

Ever since I fell ill with a blood disorder, I have researched immune system diseases and the fallout from these problems. Some of my research resources are The University of Michigan, Wikipedia, Web MD, and Harvard Medical School.

At this point in my life, I am dealing with hypothyroidism, obesity, and Type 2 diabetes and the fallout from these diseases.

I am going to look into balancing my diet. I do love food, but I am developing allergies to some foods due to my medications, and I am looking into different types of foods. I have a very good family doctor, but I am attempting to help myself by trying to balance my lifestyle to become healthy again. Please feel free to offer any tips or advice you have on how I can go about doing this.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


Jose Salinas on November 19, 2018:

Great Post, thank you

stella Robinson on August 08, 2018:

Hello, im so Depressed, about my pot belly, ive had for around 5 years now. ive cut down my food, but it wise to go on a keto diet, since we need carbohydrates .?

Prof. Rathee on August 14, 2017:

very nice information provided in a very simple form.

skperdon (author) from Canada on September 25, 2016:

Thank you for your comment Josette.

Josette on July 09, 2016:

You have summed all of this valuable information in such a short and easy way to understand, thanks very much. All these problems seem very common with me, so will be modifying some eating habits too. What I always try to remember is this: a good food to eat will answer yes to these questions:

Does it grow on a tree, in a shrub or maybe underground? Then that is the best quality food you can eat!

Good luck!

skperdon (author) from Canada on May 03, 2016:

Chris, Levothyroxine is my prescribed form of treatment for a lazy thyroid. Thanks for your comment.

My first approach is to understand the problem Nellie. Then I can make a plan to fix it and every time I stray from resolve I come back and re-read what I wrote. This information has been helpful to me countless times since I wrote this hub.

Thank you for your comment.

Nellie on April 30, 2016:

Very informative and helpful for us to understand about the types of fats in the body.

Chris on April 28, 2016:

My doctor recommended me to take iodine pill everyday to help naturally with a lazy thyroid. Going to try it.

skperdon (author) from Canada on August 08, 2015:

One reason comes to mind, maybe, high calories. It is my problem.

I have been working on cutting the amount of calories I consume to 50% less than I need.

One example is that I don't use sugar candy anymore, the only candy I use are chocolates and even those, I look for the ones that says, "No sugar added". These are lower in calories and slowly absorbed by the body.

I do abdominal exercises, but there are other reasons that would cause an unhealthy tummy size and we need figure it out and make a personal action plan that works together to get rid of the potbelly.

Good luck Sarah x!

Thank you for your comment.

sarah x on July 17, 2015:

I am really slim but av always had a belly, dnt know y. would love to get rid of it

skperdon (author) from Canada on June 22, 2015:

Thank you for your comment MarleneB.

The diagram is pretty streamlined. My source is pretty reliable so I'm quite positive of the liver's location.

Marlene Bertrand from USA on June 22, 2015:

Fascinating! I especially like the diagram. I learned a lot of new things. For instance, I thought the liver was down a little lower, but your diagram showed me that it is way up high in the body. Great subject and intensive research on this subject made it extremely valuable to the reader.

Horia Pop from Romania on July 26, 2014:

That's great!

skperdon (author) from Canada on July 26, 2014:

Thank you for your comments Horia Pop.

Thanks to my doctor my thyroid is balanced now, thank you for your concern.

Horia Pop from Romania on July 22, 2014:

A very interesting article. I'm sorry to hear about your ailments. A friend once told me about some medication for thyroid problems, but I don't recall the name. I can ask, then maybe you can tell your doctor and see if he thinks it's better than what you're taking right now. Hope to read more engaging articles from you. Take care.

skperdon (author) from Canada on July 02, 2014:

Sleep and a whole lot of self cheering uwera! I talk myself into getting to the gym or going for a walk when I feel too comfortable to leave my home after and I've eaten too much carbohydrates and feels too stuffed to move.

Thank you for reading and commenting on my hub I do hope it benefits you in a positive way.

uwera on July 01, 2014:

Now I know. Time to get off the couch and work up a sweat. Thank you for the very informative article. Getting enough sleep is also very important to weight control.

skperdon (author) from Canada on June 24, 2014:

I do approve of the part of your comment that is not a part of your hub i.e. the first 8 paragraphs and I like that you mentioned your hub.

I like reading other hubs on this topic because it gives a broader spectrum on the topic.

Our fellow hubbers have written in the names of other posts in their in their comments and I have gone to those posts and read them.

It's just the half of your hub that is the issue.

skperdon (author) from Canada on June 24, 2014:

Deborah Sexton, I loved reading your hub "Belly Fat: The cause, the dangers and the solutions ".

I especially enjoyed reading the part that began with "The cause of Belly Fat".

However, I do not enjoy redundancy, could you please remove that half of your wonderful "Belly Fat" hub from the comments section of my hub " Abdominal Obesity Metabolic Syndrome aka Potbelly".

It looks so much better on your hub.

skperdon (author) from Canada on June 10, 2014:

Sheila, that is so true! I am realizing that my body feels happier if when I don't eat meat. There are certain chemical too, that is taxing on our bodies now I go for chemical free produce. Thank you for your comment Sheila. Happy living!

Sheila on June 10, 2014:

I too am working on getting my health back at 78 years old.

Review: The Master Cleanser by Stanley Burroughs


The article is long: A paragraph for example states the following

"Many people believe that eating meat gives them strength. If this is so, then why are the strongest animals in the world vegetarians"

I found this to be interesting: "The animals we eat are vegetarians"

Good luck

Carrie Lee Night from Northeast United States on April 06, 2014:

Very good and informative hub :). Thank you for using accurate facts. Have a wonderful week.

skperdon (author) from Canada on November 06, 2013:

Thank you elfhardtoil! I really appreciate the comment, and the reference.

You know my focus here, is mainly on education about belly fat and how dangerous it is. Right?

I have lost ten pounds more, due to exercising in the gym and rearranging my food and drink consumption for maximum weight loss and nutrition and to never have that excess fat again ever.

Thank you for leaving the address of your post in the Natural Healing Forum.

I didn't know of liver "cleansing or flushing or stones".

Your post was an informative one for me.

elf hardtoil on November 06, 2013:

This is an interesting and useful article because I'd always wondered what caused that "pot-belly" and how much fat might be inside the abdomen, and was it different than the fat in the love handles, etc. I especially appreciate the illustrations, so I used your article as a reference to a post I made in the Natural Healing Forum at CureZone dot com. I don't know if it's germane to include direct links in these comments, but if you want to search it out, I titled it "Liver Cleansing and your big, fat body... " by elf_hardtoil and, yes, I have recently lost some inner and outer belly fat and kept it off, and some weight as well.

skperdon (author) from Canada on June 16, 2013:

Thank you Heather. I am using the knowledge that I have shared in this hub to get rid of my own tummy fat and I am going to the gym too. I must say that the "puffy" has flattened somewhat . It's a really nice feeling.

Thank you for the comment. Best wishes too!

HeatherH104 from USA on June 16, 2013:

It is such a trouble area, especially after having two 9 lb babies! (Not at the same time lol). I read about different exercises to do in addition to watching what you eat and it's helping but doubtful I'll ever have a nice stomach again.

Sorry to hear of the health issues you've been having. Knowledge is power, good for you for researching and trying to find what's best for you.

All the best.


skperdon (author) from Canada on May 02, 2013:

I have a weak thyroid too, so I am always researching weight loss. My angle is to try to understand the problem, so when you get fed-up of one method, you can use another one. Thank you for your comment georgiagal1984. You have a great weekend too!

Mrs Frugal from United States on May 02, 2013:

Very informative hub! I have to work so hard at losing weight due to having a weak thyroid. It's hard work, but so worth it though. Hope you have a wonderful week~