By Summer Banks on Sep 19, 2017

It should be no surprise that having an excess of belly fat is incredibly unhealthy.

The risks for diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, and cancer are all significantly increased [1].

To use more technical terminology, the extra belly fat is more commonly known as “visceral fat” in the medical world, referencing the fatty area which encompasses the liver along with other abdominal organs [2].

There is even an increased risk of serious health issues if you are of average weight, yet still, pack on some extra fat in your belly – which is called normal weight central obesity [3].

Below is a list of 10 things that contribute to visceral fat in your stomach.

1. Trans Fats and Belly Fat

In the world of unhealthy fat, there is none unhealthier than trans fat [4].

Trans fats are made by adding hydrogen to unsaturated fats to make them more stable [5].

Nowadays, companies want their products to last as long as possible [shelf life], so they accomplish this by adding trans fats to their goods such as muffins, frozen pizza, packaged foods, crackers, cakes, microwave popcorn, and baking mixes [6].

Trans fats are also well-known to be the mastermind behind inflammation [8] [9] and insulin resistance, which could cause diabetes and heart disease, among other serious diseases [7] [8] [9] [10].

In addition to this, there have been a plethora of animal studies and medical research indicating that trans fat could be the culprit behind excess belly fat [11] [12].

One study showed that by its completion, male African green monkeys that were given an 8% trans fat diet experienced significant weight gain coupled with increased intra-abdominal fat deposition, even though each of the subject groups were taking in enough calories to maintain their individual weight [13].

The Final Verdict: Trans fats elevate insulin resistance as well as increase belly fat and inflammation that could lead to some serious health risks.

2. Low-Protein Diets

One of the best ways to prevent weight gain is consuming a sufficient amount of dietary protein.Some meat can cause belly fat.

When you eat a meal that is high in protein, you feel more satiated and full [14].

High protein diets also increase thermogenesis as well as producing a sustained reduction of ad libitum caloric intake [14] [15].

Intake of low protein meals could lead to a significant increase in belly fat over a long enough period.

In addition to this, there have been several rather substantial studies indicating that individuals who intake the highest amount of protein in their diet experience the least amount of excess belly fat [16].

There have even been in vivo studies which found that neuropeptide Y [a polypeptide consisting of 36 amino acids] causes high appetite and belly fat gain [17] [19].

The levels of neuropeptide Y are elevated whenever your protein intake is too low [18] [19].

The Final Verdict: Consuming insufficient protein could raise the sensation of hunger and increase belly fat while raising neuropeptide Y.

3. Sugary Foods and Beverages

You may not realize it, but you could be taking in way more sugar in your daily diet than you think.

Foods that are high in sugar include candy, cake, muffins, and frozen yogurt.

Along with those, you have soda, flavored coffee drinks and sweet tea as more prominent sweetened beverages.

There have been reports that showcase the connection between high amounts of sugar consumption and excess belly fat [21].

The primary cause of this is the high levels of fructose content in the added sugars of these products [20] [21].Milkshakes can contribute to belly fat.

Regular sugar and high fructose corn syrup [HFCS] are both extremely abundant in fructose, with regular sugar containing 50% fructose and HFCS containing 55% fructose.

In one 10-week human controlled study set out to test the effects of dietary sugars during sustained consumption [22].

Obese participants ingested fructose-sweetened drinks containing 25% energy requirements for ten weeks, leading to a reduction in insulin sensitivity and a rise in belly fat [22].

There is another report showing a decrease in metabolic rate along with a significant decline in net fat oxidation in participants who were given a similar diet which was high in fructose [23].

It should be stressed that high amounts of sugar in any shape or form could result in weight gain and various health issues, but sugar-sweetened drinks could very well be leading the charge [24].

Sweetened beverages such as soda allow the consumer to intake copious amounts of sugar in a much shorter period.

More studies have pointed out that calories from liquid do not have the same effect as calories from solid foods, highlighting the fact that drinking beverages don’t supply the satiety that solid foods do, leading you to eat less or choose a different food instead [25].

Ingesting an energy-yielding drink poses a higher risk for the promotion of positive energy, more so than a macronutrient-matched solid or slightly solid food [26].

The Final Verdict: Belly fat gain is caused by consuming large quantities of drinks containing high fructose corn syrup and sugar, which could also be very harmful to your health [27].

4. Belly Fat and Alcohol

Alcohol is known to possess harmful as well as helpful effects on human health.

Red wine, when taking moderation into consideration, could have the ability to decrease your risk of stroke and heart attacks [28].

On the other hand, significant amounts of alcohol intake could cause liver disease, inflammation and an array of other health issues [29] [30].

There are studies which point out the suppressing effect that alcohol has on fat burning and shows that excess calories from the alcohol are semi-stored as belly fat [31].

If you’ve ever heard someone say “You’ve got a beer belly!” that is the most likely the reason.Alcohol is a major cause of belly fat.

Studies are showing the effects that alcohol has on midsection weight gain, with one study showing male individuals who ingest more than three alcoholic beverages per day are typically 80% more likely to experience extra fat in their belly as opposed to men who consume less alcohol per day [32].

It is also important to point out that the amount of alcohol ingested in a single day could also be a cause of excess belly fat.

One study evaluated the effects of drinking in moderation with belly fat, suggesting that those who ingested less than one drink per day had the least amount of belly fat, while those who had consumed less alcohol in general but more on the days where they “binged” were more likely to possess excess belly fat [33].

The Final Verdict: Consuming alcohol in large quantities is linked to several health issues [34] as well as playing a significant role in excess belly fat.

5. Is Inactivity Causing Your Belly Fat?

Idle hands aren’t just the Devil’s workshop – they can be the precursor to excess belly fat.

Throughout the past 30 years or so, human beings have become less active than they should be. This is among the list of reasons why so many suffer from obesity and extra tummy fat.

One study showed that from the year 1988 to the year 2010 men and women in the US experienced significant weight gain and abdominal girth due to increased inactivity [35].

There has been another study which compared the weight gain effects on women who watched more than three hours of TV per day vs. women who watched under an hour, concluding that the women who watched less television had less of a risk of severe abdominal obesity.

It has been well-documented that increasing physical activity could prevent stroke, heart disease, weight gain, and cancer [36].

Some research points out the importance of exercise following a period of weight-loss, stating that those who kept resistance or aerobic exercise in their lifestyle following one year of weight-loss prevented weight gain, while those who remained inactive experienced a 25%-38% elevation in belly fat [37].

The Final Verdict: Stay active and keep a steady exercise regimen in your daily routine to prevent abdominal fat regain following a period of weight-loss. Take a look at 10 Weight Loss Claims that science shoots out of the sky.

6. Bacteria and Belly Fat?

There are seemingly countless amounts of bacteria that reside in your gut and colon. While some of these bacteria are beneficial to your health, others pose some potentially serious health concerns [38].

Gut flora is microorganisms that live in the digestive tract.Bacteria and belly fat.

Gut health is crucial for keeping your immune system healthy and in preventing harmful diseases.

If there are any imbalances in gut flora, the chances for type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and the number of other health issues are significantly increased [39].

Research and reports indicate that unhealthy balance of gut bacteria could not only cause serious health risks but increase chances for weight gain and excess belly fat [40].

Humans have a tendency to contain a larger amount of Firmicutes bacteria which could elevate caloric absorption from foods [41].

One study sing mice pointed out that conventionally raised mice had 40% more total body fat than germ-free mice [42].

Other studies showcased the significance of sharing flora with siblings, using twins to highlight the link between weight gain and storage via a common core of shared flora within their mother [43].

The Final Verdict: Belly fat and overall weight gain could be a direct result of an imbalance of bacteria in your gut. Consider using Almased, which contains the good bacteria.

7. Belly Fat Diet – Low-Fiber

Fiber is a great way to promote health and manage weight.

Fiber assists in the feeling of satiety, while others balance hunger hormones and decrease absorption of calories from the foods we eat [44] [45].

One study showed that fiber ingestion was linked to reduced belly fat, finding that there was a 3.7% reduction in body fat for each 10-gram addition of soluble fiber [46].

There seems to be an opposite effect with high carb/ low fiber diets on excess belly fat and weight gain [47] [48].

The Final Verdict: Taking in a small fiber meal that is high in refined carbohydrates could ultimately lead down the path to excess belly fat.

8. Is Stress Making You Fat?

Cortisol is a steroid hormone in the glucocorticoid class and is crucial for human survival. Supplements like Relacore Extra claims to stop cortisol levels from getting too high – that can cause belly fat.

Cortisol [produced by the adrenal glands] assists the body by releasing stress and low blood glucose concentration [49].Can stress cause belly fat?

While this may sound fine, it could lead to weight gain when it’s produced in copious amounts.

When you become stressed, you may overeat. The calories from these foods are then, because of cortisol, stored in the belly instead of dispersed throughout the body [50] [51].

The Final Verdict: Cortisol is a hormone that releases during times of stress and could very well lead to unwanted belly fat.

9. What Role Do Genetics Play?

It should be no shock that genetics are a big factor in risks for obesity [52].

It seems that belly fat storage and the body’s predisposed methods for storing it are greatly influenced by one’s genetic makeup [53].

One study pointed out three new genes which are linked to high abdominal obesity and waist-to-hip ratio [54].

Two of these three genes were found exclusive in females [55].

Larger studies are necessary to understand leptin’s role in weight regulation [56].

The Final Verdict: There seems to be a link between genetics and the storage of excess calories as belly fat as well as playing a part in waist-to-hip ratios.

10. Not Enough Sleep

Sleep plays in important role in your health [57] [59].

Not getting a sufficient amount of sleep can be costly [59].

There have been a large number of studies linking the importance of sleep in weight management, possibly including body fat and belly fat [58].

One study outlined the metabolic effects of sleep restriction, finding those who slept for five hours or fewer a night were more likely to gain weight than the participants who were getting at least seven hours of sleep [60].

There is evidence which points to sleep apnea being a culprit in obesity [61].

In one particular report, it was discovered that obese patients suffering from sleep apnea possessed a high amount of belly fat than obese patients without sleep apnea [62].

The Final Verdict: There is a link between sleep apnea and visceral obesity, thus not getting enough sleep could result in weight gain and belly fat accumulation. Formulas like Belly Blaster PM work on the premise that poor sleep can lead to weight gain, especially in the belly.

Final Thoughts

There are a large number of causes for excess belly fat.

Some of the causes are simply out of your control, like genetics and hormones, while most of the factors can be handled personally by simple changes in diet and lifestyle.

Learn more about stress management and different workout regimens, as well as keeping what you eat in mind, and knowing which foods out there just to flat out avoid.

About the Author:

Summer Banks, Director of Content at Dietspotlight, has researched over 5000 weight-loss programs, pills, shakes and diet plans. Previously, she managed 15 supplement brands, worked with doctors specializing in weight loss and completed coursework in nutrition at Stanford University. full bio.