Belly fat in men: Why weight loss matters

Belly fat is nothing to joke about. Find out what causes belly fat, the health risks it poses for men, and what you can do to lose the extra pounds. By Mayo Clinic Staff

If you're carrying a few extra pounds, you're not alone. But this is one case where following the crowd isn't a good idea. Carrying extra weight — especially belly fat — can be risky.

Michael D. Jensen, M.D., an endocrinology specialist at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn., answers common questions about belly fat in men.

Why is belly fat a concern for men?

The trouble with belly fat is that it's not limited to the extra layer of padding located just below the skin (subcutaneous fat). It also includes visceral fat — which lies deep inside your abdomen, surrounding your internal organs.

Regardless of your overall weight, having a large amount of belly fat increases your risk of:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Sleep apnea

Does age or genetics play a role in gaining belly fat?

Your weight is largely determined by how you balance the calories you eat with the energy you burn. If you eat too much and exercise too little, you're likely to pack on excess pounds — including belly fat.

However, aging plays a role. As you age, you lose muscle — especially if you're not physically active. Loss of muscle mass decreases the rate at which your body uses calories, which can make it more challenging to maintain a healthy weight. In addition, in some men fat cells in the arms and legs lose the ability to store fat, which causes any excess fat to go to the abdomen.

Your genes also can affect your chances of being overweight or obese, as well as play a role in where you store fat.

Jun. 08, 2013 See more In-depth