Get Rid of Potbelly (Abdominal Obesity, Metabolic Syndrome)
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)
Three Types of Fat
All fats are derivatives of fatty acids and glycerol. We all have three types of fats in our bodies.
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.
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 a 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 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 fats.
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.
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).
My Research on Obesity and Related Conditions
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. I have frequented the Liver Doctor website for information on non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
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.