Belly Fat in the Aging Male: Where does it come from?
Belly fat also known as abdominal adiposity, central obesity or visceral fat (found inside the belly and around organs) is correlated with significant health risks. These include; metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even Alzheimer’s and other vascular disease. Research shows that weight and BMI gradually increase during most of adult life, reaching peak values between 50 and 59 years of age in both men and women. Along with an increase in weight—mostly from fat—there’s a decrease in fat-free mass, also known as lean mass and it’s mainly composed of muscle tissue. Loss of muscle can contribute to this redistribution of fat which can often go straight to the belly. There are many reasons that can contribute to this phenomenon.
- Poor diet (Standard American Diet high in processed foods)
- Lack of physical activity
- Stress/Cortisol Fat
- Alcohol consumption
- Insulin resistance
- Low testosterone levels (these levels naturally decline with age)
What can be done?
- Eat a balanced diet with high amounts of quality protein. There are many studies that show diets higher in protein fuel weight loss while maintaining muscle mass. In fact, one study found that older adults who had higher intakes of dietary protein lost 40 percent less lean mass than those who had a low protein intake.
- Engage in aerobic exercise and resistance training. The key to healthy weight management as we age is to combine a healthy diet with exercise. A randomized controlled trial found that those who managed their diet and exercised regularly maintained muscle mass compared to a group who just managed their diet.
- Balance Hormones. Work with a qualified hormone replacement specialist.
Reduce stress. Along with diet and exercise. Yoga, meditations, and getting good sleep are also very important.
Mokdad et al. The continuing epidemics of obesity and diabetes in the United States. JAMA, 2001;286:1195-200.
Houston et al. Dietary protein intake is associated with lean mass change in older, community-dwelling adults: the Health, Aging, and Body Composition (Health ABC) Study. Am J Clin Nutr, 2008;87:150-5.
Frimel et al. Exercise attenuates the weight-loss-induced reduction in muscle mass in frail obese older adults. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 2008;40(7):1213-1219