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Belly fat in men: Why weight loss matters

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jun 27, 2023.

Carrying a few extra pounds isn't uncommon, especially as people get older. But those pounds can lead to serious health risks. That's particularly true if the weight is in the form of belly fat.

Belly fat is a more dangerous fat

The trouble with belly fat is that it's not limited to the layer of padding just below the skin. That's called subcutaneous fat. Belly fat also includes visceral fat. And that lies deep inside the abdomen and surrounds the internal organs.

Regardless of a person's overall weight, having a large amount of belly fat raises the risk of:

Belly fat

Subcutaneous fat is belly fat you can feel if you pinch extra skin and tissue around your middle. Visceral fat is fat that builds up deep within the abdomen in the space around the organs. Too much visceral fat is strongly linked with a higher risk of serious health problems.

The role of age and genetics

How much a person weighs depends in large part on four things:

People who regularly eat and drink more calories than they burn each day are more likely to gain extra weight, including belly fat.

Getting older also makes a difference. People lose muscle as they age. And the problem is worse for those who are not physically active. Loss of muscle mass decreases how quickly the body uses calories. That can make it more challenging to maintain a healthy weight. For example, when men are in their 50s, they need about 200 fewer calories a day than they do when they are in their 30s.

Genes can contribute to an individual's chances of being overweight or obese too. It also plays a role in where the body stores fat.

Alcohol and belly fat

Drinking alcohol can lead to what's sometimes called a beer belly, but beer alone isn't to blame. Drinking too much alcohol of any kind can add to the problem. If you drink alcohol, do so only in moderation. For men, that means up to two drinks a day. The less a person drinks, the fewer calories, and the less likely belly fat will build up over time.

Finding your belly size

To see if your belly fat is a concern, measure your waist:

For men, a waist measurement of more than 40 inches (102 centimeters) signals an unhealthy amount of belly fat and a higher risk of health problems. In general, though, the greater the waist measurement, the higher the health risks.

Shrinking your middle

You can strengthen and tone abdominal muscles with crunches or other exercises focused on your belly. But doing those exercises alone won't get rid of belly fat. The good news is that visceral fat responds to the same diet and exercise strategies that can help get rid of other extra pounds and lower total body fat. Try these tips:

Losing belly fat takes effort and patience. To lose extra fat and keep it from coming back, aim for slow and steady weight loss. Ask your health care provider for help getting started and staying on track.

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