Abdominal Obesity: What Makes Overweight Worse?

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Introduction to Abdominal Obesity & Its Associated Health Risks

Obesity is a major health issue in many countries, and abdominal obesity is one of the most dangerous forms of obesity. Abdominal obesity often referred to as “belly fat”, is characterized by excessive fat deposits concentrated around the midsection of your body. This leads to an increased risk of various medical issues.


According to the World Health Organization (WHO), abdominal obesity is a major public health problem. In 2023, WHO has no plans to decrease the risks associated with this condition but urges individuals to alter their lifestyles and adhere to its recommendations for managing it.

This article discusses what abdominal obesity is and highlights some of its associated health risks.

What is Abdominal Obesity?

Abdominal obesity, also sometimes referred to as central or visceral adiposity, is defined as having a waist circumference greater than 102cm (40 inches) for men and 88cm (35 inches) for women1. It is also possible to approximate this measurement with a ratio that uses waist measurements compared to height.

Any waist-to-height ratio over 0.50 for men or 0.45 for women indicates abdominal obesity according to current guidelines2.

What Causes Abdominal Obesity?

Abdominal obesity is caused by an excessive accumulation of fat in the abdominal region due to lifestyle, dietary or genetic factors. Health challenges such as type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease, and hypertension are all linked to obesity. Particularly around the waistline. Diet plays a major role in causing abdominal obesity. Consuming too many sugary and processed foods can lead to rapid weight gain and a large build-up of fat deposits in the abdomen. Genetics can also influence weight gain. Unfortunately, abdominal obesity can be difficult to tackle using diet alone. Exercising regularly can help reduce abdominal fat buildup but this is not always sufficient to bring about significant change.

Risk Factors for Abdominal Obesity


  • Genetics: Due to genetic predisposition, some individuals are more prone to abdominal adiposity than others. This is especially evident in families with a history of abdominal obesity or excess body weight (or both).
  • Excessive Calories: Eating too many calories can contribute to abdominal adiposity since excess calories are stored as fat in the body’s midsection. Maintaining a balanced diet and avoiding overeating should help one keep their calorie intake at proper levels and reduce risk factors for developing abdominal obesity.
  • Low Physical Activity Levels: Low levels of physical activity make it harder for your body to burn off any excess calories. Low physical activity levels can also cause hormonal imbalances that result in increased fat storage around the stomach area.
  • High Sugar Intake: Eating too much sugar can lead to an unhealthy accumulation of belly fat since sugar is broken down into fatty acids by your body upon digestion. Those fatty acids are then stored as visceral fats within the secular walls, leading to an increase in stomach circumference over time as they accumulate around your middle section.
  • Stressful Events and Relationships: Stressful experiences such as trauma, breakups, job loss, and financial worries can all trigger overeating due to emotional eating habits caused by elevated cortisol (stress hormone) levels caused by stress itself. 
  • Smoking: Since nicotine affects your metabolism rate and has been linked with a higher deposition of intra-abdominal fat even after accounting for age and weight, quitting smoking should enhance metabolic processes that help reduce risk factors associated with intra-abdominal adiposity.

Impact of Stress on Abdominal Fat & Strategies to Reduce It


Studies have shown that high levels of chronic stress increase cortisol production. This, in turn, affects our body’s ability to store abdominal fat. The accumulation of this ‘central’ fat leads to a greater risk of heart disease.

It is our bodies’ nature to protect us from danger and threats. When we experience stress. Even if it’s emotional rather than physical. Our body produces the hormone cortisol. Releasing stored energy in the form of glucose into the bloodstream for an ’emergency response.’ This can result in weight gain around the midsection. Increased insulin levels are related to an increase in appetite as part of our fight-or-flight response.

Strategies for Reducing Abdominal Fat Due To Stress

  • Increase Exercise Intensity: Adding strength training into your regular weekly workout routine will help build muscle mass that assists with calorie burning thus helping bring down belly fat along with improving overall metabolic rate causing more calories burnt throughout the day rather than just during exercise.
  • Monitor Cortisol Levels with Reliable Tests: Several laboratory tests (saliva & blood) evaluate our cortisol levels; they gauge not only baseline cortisol measurements but also how it varies after experiencing a stressful situation or period. Experimenting with different types of relaxation techniques such as yoga, tai chi or meditation may help regulate cortisol levels over time; individuals should also adopt longer-term lifestyle changes like proper sleep hygiene and healthy eating habits as part of their self-care plan to maintain safe levels of cortisol and further reduce their risk factors related to abdominal obesity.
  • Lower Your Consumption Of Sugar: Limiting sugar intake not only assists our waistline but lower blood sugar levels and improves overall health by reducing inflammation by lengthy elevated sugar concentrations around the body leading ultimately towards accumulating belly fats faster than there would be otherwise!

The Role of Diet in Abdominal Fat Loss


The best way to reduce abdominal fat is to follow a balanced diet that is low in calories. But still contains all the essential nutrients that your body needs. Focus on eating lean proteins such as chicken, fish, or turkey. Healthy fats such as avocado or olive oil and loads of fresh fruits and vegetables. Choose whole-grain carbohydrates such as quinoa, farro, or brown rice over-processed white bread or pasta. Eating a well-balanced diet along with other healthy habits can help you reduce your waist circumference.

Consequences & Complications of Abdominal Obesity

Abdominal obesity has serious consequences on one’s health. As it can lead to an increased risk of developing serious conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. Complications that arise from abdominal obesity can include high cholesterol levels, sleep apnea, and even certain reproductive issues. It is important to take a proactive approach when it comes to reducing abdominal obesity. This may include improved diet and exercise regimens, as well as lifestyle changes.

Dietary Strategies to Minimize Abdominal Fat

Strategies to minimize abdominal fat include replacing processed foods and refined sugar with whole, unprocessed foods. Such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Eating more fiber-rich foods can improve digestion and lead to better gut health. This lower the levels of abdominal fat. Getting enough sleep is also essential for reducing belly fat because inadequate sleep disrupts hormones that regulate appetite. Furthermore, regular physical activity like walking and strength training can help reduce overall body fat. Including abdominal fat and increased metabolism.

Physical Activity to Combat Abdominal Fat

Regular physical activity can help you fight abdominal fat. Exercise not only burns calories but also maintains healthy body weight and reduces abdominal fat. For the best results, it is important to focus on aerobic exercises. Like walking, swimming, running, and biking in conjunction with muscle-strengthening exercises. Such as lifting weights or using resistance bands. 

Medication Therapy to Treat Abdominal Obesity & Reduce Health Risks

Medication therapies to treat abdominal obesity are becoming important due to the numerous health risks associated with it. These therapies aid lifestyle changes that can positively affect this issue. Such medications can reduce levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the body. This may help people lose weight and lower their overall health risks from this type of obesity. 

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