Even though having a beer belly is a powerful emotional reason behind why many of us want to lose weight, there is a far bigger reason why we should lose it.
Here’s the thing: like anything that doesn’t kill us immediately, our beer belly doesn’t either. We can ignore it, especially if we’re young in our 20s and 30s, or if we see all our friends around us with beer bellies.
As a young professional in a corporate work setting, it can seem that “health” is more an exception than the norm. Beer bellies being the norm.
Besides it being something that tends to be embarrassing, here are 10 scientifically-backed reasons why you should get rid of it ASAP.
1. It’s not just fat; it’s the worst kind of fat from a health perspective.
I know I’m overweight. No big deal. So what, right?
Unfortunately, belly fat is worse than being overweight. Belly fat is actually different from fat at other parts of your body. It’s known as visceral fat and carries with it a highly elevated risk of disease. This visceral fat also gives off cytokines, which are inflammatory compounds in the body that increase the systemic inflammation going on–which is another risk factor for dozens of diseases.
2. It’s an indicator of metabolic syndrome.
Metabolic syndrome is basically a cluster of negative symptoms associated with the body’s inability to consume and store energy efficiently.
Typically a person will have abdominal fat, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, and low HDL cholesterol. What’s the big deal? Metabolic syndrome is one of the strongest predictors of contracting these illnesses in the future:
- Heart disease and heart attacks
- Pre-diabetes and diabetes
The beer belly is a dead giveaway that a person is well on their way down the road to metabolic syndrome.
3. It increases your risk for breast cancer.
For both men and women, having belly fat and being overweight increases the risk of breast cancer.
The higher levels of body fat and belly fat produce an enzyme that converts testosterone to estrogen. The more body fat, the higher the levels of estrogen in the body. Estrogen feeds breast cancer cells. One study found that, in pre-menopausal women, excess belly fat increased the incidence of a very specific type of breast cancer.
4. It increases your overall risk of dying from all causes.
In one study, men with excess belly fat and a large waist were most at risk for what researchers call “all-cause mortality”–early death from any cause. A study in Germany found the same, but with a twist. Belly fat tripled the risk of all cause mortality even if the person had a normal body weight.
5. It dramatically raises your risk of being diabetic.
In Singapore, researchers did a study on close to 2,000 people with diabetes, and 643 that developed it by the very young age of 33. The researchers found a significant link between belly fat and diabetes risk, especially diabetes while the patient was still in his or her 30s.
6. It’s linked to erectile dysfunction.
As if the emotional impact wasn’t enough, here’s a very good reason for men to lose the gut: it’s strongly correlated with erectile dysfunction, and not just in older men. Younger men with diabetes can have ED issues 10 or more years earlier than the average man, which can be a complication from diabetes.
Since the beer gut is linked to pre-diabetes, diabetes and syndrome X, another side effect of these conditions is erectile dysfunction, which can occur in as many as 25-75% of men that are diabetic. One of the reasons for this is that these conditions damage nerves and blood vessels, which are involved in arousal.
7. It’s bad for your heart.
One of the biggest reasons to get rid of your gut is that it produces enormous stress on your heart. As your body mass index rises (especially belly fat), it strongly increases your risk of coronary heart disease, where plaque begins to build up in the arteries. This slows down the ability of your heart to receive blood and oxygen.
When this plaque has built up sufficiently, clogging occurs. This can lead to chest pain (angina) or a full-on heart attack. A beer belly doubles your risk of heart disease of any form. Over time this can also lead to stroke and other complications.
8. It worsens hormonal problems.
A big issue with gaining too much belly fat is that excess belly fat (and overall fat) is directly linked to much higher levels of estrogen in the body. So the more fat you have, typically the higher the estrogen levels. Even though estrogen is a primarily female hormone, and we might assume it’s “good” to have for women, excess belly fat can dramatically increase it in both men and women to the point where negative health issues start cropping up.
Women begin to have excessively strong, painful periods, fibroids, cravings and mood issues, as well as poor sleep.
Men begin to develop “man boobs,” have problems with arousal, lack energy and can have mood and sleep issues due to the lower levels of testosterone.
Regardless of gender, this hormonal imbalance that occurs from excess belly fat has negative consequences.
9. It raises your risk of having a stroke.
For the same reason that having too much belly fat increases heart disease, diabetes and cancer risk, it also is directly correlated with a higher risk of stroke.
As more plaque begins to build up in the arteries it can become detached from the wall and float around the bloodstream, and a blood clot can form. If it’s close to the brain, a stroke can result when oxygen and blood is blocked from flowing throughout the brain.
There’s a direct correlation between your body mass index (BMI) and your risk of stroke. As your BMI goes up, so does your risk.
10. It increases the chances of getting dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
People who have large bellies (especially later in life) have a whopping 250% increase in their chances of getting dementia or showing serious signs of cognitive decline.
Another study highlighted over at the Huffington Post suggested that belly fat may actually cause dementia and Alzheimer’s. The protein that metabolizes fat in the liver is the same protein found in the brain that controls memory and learning, and a problem with belly fat is that it depletes this critical enzyme in both places.
So not only does belly fat result in physical issues and major health complications, it also ruins your brain.
Featured photo credit: Young handsome man drinking from a red can via shutterstock.com