Priyanka made a mental note that her husband Rahul had opened the second packet of crisps since the cricket match they were watching on TV began barely an hour ago. The crisps were apart from the chicken hot dog that he consumed just before the match began.
When the 43-year-old reached for the third packet of crisps, she gently gave him a smack on his hand before pointing to his midriff. "That’s enough," she chided him. "Also, it’s time you started playing some sport instead of just watching it on TV," she said, a note of warning clear in her tone.
Rahul smiled sheepishly. He knew he had been neglecting his exercise regimen for over two years now – and the results were clearly showing. His belly which he had always struggled to keep in check, had ballooned quite a bit and while it was a matter of concern for him, he also knew he was not taking enough steps to control it.
Rahul is not alone in worrying about an expanding midriff. According to a 2016 survey, around 20-40 per cent of men were upset about certain aspects of their body, most commonly their physical appearance, weight and muscle tone.
But those with a large amount of belly fat need to be more than just worried – they need to urgently take measures to reduce it.
According to a Mayo Clinic report, belly fat is more than just the extra layer of padding located just below the skin. It also includes visceral fat – which lies deep inside the abdomen, surrounding internal organs. And this is something that could pose a major risk to health.
A large amount of belly fat could increase your risk of among other conditions, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, colorectal cancer, sleep apnea, and hypertension.
Dr. Mohammed Quraishi, General Practitioner in Mediclinic Welcare Hospital, would agree. "Development of belly fat is directly correlated with deposition of fat in and around our abdominal organs," he says. "This is a marker that fat accumulation in various other vital organs is also occurring. If this fat gets deposited in the blood vessels of our heart or brain it can result in a heart attack or stroke respectively."
He addresses questions and busts certain myths related to the development of belly fat in men while also offering techniques that one may adopt to overcome this.
Excerpts from an interview with Dr. Mohammed Quraishi:
What are the different types of body fat? Is it the same for males and females?
There are several types of body fat. These include:
• White adipose tissue (or white fat): This is where our energy and sometimes excess energy is stored. It is also now known to be the source of several hormones.
• Brown adipose tissue (or brown fat): This type of fat actually burns calories and converts it to usable energy. This is triggered in response to cold temperatures and certain forms of diet.
Fat is also classified based on its location. It can be under the skin or subcutaneous or deeply stored in and around our organs, known as visceral fat.
The location of fat can also differ which can be predominantly over the abdominal region, or predominantly over the thighs and buttocks. The former is seen more in men, whereas the latter is seen more often in premenopausal women.
Is the fat present in the belly the same that we see in other parts of our body?
The fat in the belly is due to fat below the skin as well as fat stored deep in the body and around the organs. This fat can also be stored deep in the liver and around the intestines. All of these together constitute the fat present in the belly.
What are the chances of men developing belly fat compared to women?
Men are more likely to develop belly fat due to the hormonal differences between men and women, namely, women have estrogen. Estrogen increases the chances of fat being stored in the thigh and buttock region in contrast to the abdomen.
Calories, if consumed in excess to the number burned, can result in it being stored as fat in our abdominal region. Fatty or processed foods could lead to belly fat.
It is said that men are more likely to develop an apple-shaped body. Why is this and what does it mean?
An apple-shaped body is when fat is stored in the chest and stomach area. Men have less estrogen compared to women and this is the hormone responsible for why fat prefers to be stored in certain locations in men in contrast to women. It helps divert energy to be stored in these locations and when fat is to be utilised as a source of energy; fat from areas other than the stomach area are mobilised as fuel instead.
Are there any ethnicities or communities that are more prone to developing belly fat?
Although belly fat development has a genetic predisposition with environmental catalysts such as a sedentary lifestyle and consumption of high calorie foods, some ethnicities especially South Asians are more likely to develop abdominal visceral fat and belly fat as compared to other ethnicities.
What are some risk factors for men to develop belly fat?
There are several genes identified by researchers that directly influence obesity and this can explain why some families are more likely to be more obese than others. It has been noticed that visceral fat, which constitutes the majority of belly fat, increases as one ages and the potential diseases this form of fat accumulation can cause also worsens as one ages.
At what point should belly fat become a cause of concern?
When men have a waist circumference of more than 40 inches and women have a waist circumference of more than 35 inches, belly fat could be the reason for something called metabolic syndrome which can be a precursor for many diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol levels.
Why is losing belly fat tough?
Losing belly fat is directly related to losing weight in general. This can be achieved through a disciplined calorie deficit diet (consuming less calories per day than the number of calories utilized per day) and some aerobic full body exercises including swimming, high intensity interval training and compound weightlifting.