You probably refer to the phenomenon of a man with a belly that protrudes similarly to a pregnant woman’s as a “beer belly.” But the reason men get hard, fat bellies is not always as simple as beer consumption. The reason is the type of fat they carry: omentum fat. Dr. Mehmet Oz, professor of surgery at Columbia University, said on the Oprah TV show that the only purpose of the omentum organ is to store fat. And it stores it underneath the stomach muscles, which makes a man look fat but have a hard belly.
Though the terms for hard, fat bellies are affectionate and funny: beer belly, potbelly or spare tire, nothing is funny about omentum fat. Doctors also call this sort of fat visceral fat, and it is the most dangerous fat to carry around. Visceral fat is stored under the muscles as opposed to subcutaneous fat, which is stored under the skin. Fat released from the omentum organ travels to the liver. It is processed and then goes to the arteries, which is what causes high LDL cholesterol. Belly fat is supplying a “feeding tube to your vital internal organs.”
What Causes It
The way men and even some women develop hard, fat bellies is from ingesting too many calories. Beer can cause it, but so can eating too much food and drinking sugary sodas. Beer, however, is a big contributor to the problem for several reasons. Beer contains alcohol, and the liver burns off the alcohol instead of the fat, says Michael Jensen, an endocrine expert with the Mayo Clinic. Beer also has lots of calories, and if you drink several, you are ingesting too many calories. Also, the foods many people eat with beer tend to be fattening, such as pizza, chicken wings, onion rings and french fries.
If you take in too many calories, your body needs to store the fat somewhere. Women tend to gain subcutaneous fat under the skin as opposed to visceral fat under the muscles. So women can store fat in their legs, buttocks and arms in addition to their bellies. But fat in men tends to go mostly to the belly. If your hard, fat belly measures more than 40 inches, you are at increased risk of developing heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, type 2 diabetes and sleep apnea, says Jensen.
Get Rid of It
The way to get rid of your hard, fat belly is the same way you’d get rid of any type of fat: burn more calories than you take in. Start eating healthy foods and reduce your portion sizes. Also, get moving. Check with your doctor to see whether you can do some moderate aerobic exercise 150 minutes per week. Add a couple of days of strength training to the mix. If you don’t already exercise, start slowly by walking. Though you can do sit-ups or crunches as part of your overall exercise regimen, abdominal exercises by themselves will not get rid of your belly fat. Losing weight is the most important way to have a flatter belly. There is some good news about visceral fat, however: It’s typically the first type of fat to go when you start to lose weight.