Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Weight Loss & Diet Plans

Font Size

The Risks of Belly Fat

Lose belly fat to reduce your risks for heart disease, cancer, and more.

Belly Fat: Men's vs. Women's Risks continued...

Women tend to be protected before menopause, when their fat tends to collect on the buttocks and thighs. That type of fat may protect women from heart damage, research suggests. The below-the-waist fat cells are believed to produce a hormone that fights some of the heart-damaging effects of belly fat.

At menopause, however, women's fat tends to settle in the belly, most likely the effect of lower levels of estrogen, Kuller explains. That abdominal fat is much more dangerous than buttocks fat -- greatly increasing a woman's risk of death from heart disease, studies show.

  • A woman is nearly five times more likely to die of heart disease if she has both a big waist and a high level of fats in her blood, according to one Danish study.
  • Women are twice as likely to need gallstone surgery if they have a large waistline.
  • Women may also have trouble getting pregnant if their belly is larger than their hips, a condition known as central obesity.
  • Women are at one-third higher risk of breast cancer if they have excess belly fat, one study shows. In fact, several types of cancer -- breast cancer, uterine, cervix, colon, kidney, and pancreas -- have been linked with obesity.

Here's what happens: As fat cells break down, chemicals released "act as very powerful cell-proliferating agents," Kuller tells WebMD. "This may be why obesity is a risk factor for various cancers... because it stimulates cancer cells to proliferate more rapidly."

Kuller believes that breast cancer risk is due more to a woman's overall body fat -- not just belly fat.

"There is substantial evidence that body fat causes the body to produce more estrogen than necessary," Kuller says. "Obesity is probably the No. 1 risk factor for postmenopausal breast cancer, especially estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancer."

Today on WebMD

vegetables
Video
Woman trying clothes / dress
Assessment
 
Woman looking at reflection in mirror
Article
Hot cup of coffee
Quiz
 
woman shopping fresh produce
Video
butter curl on knife
Quiz
 
eating out healthy
Article
Smiling woman, red hair
Article
 
6-Week Challenges
Want to know more?
Chill Out and Charge Up Challenge – How to help your tribe de-stress and energize.
Spark Change Challenge - Ready for a healthy change? Get some major motivation.
I have read and agreed to WebMD's Privacy Policy.
Enter cell phone number
- -
Entering your cell phone number and pressing submit indicates you agree to receive text messages from WebMD related to this challenge. WebMD is utilizing a 3rd party vendor, CellTrust, to provide the messages. You can opt out at any time.
Standard text rates apply
thumbnail_woman_tossing_spinach
Video
lunchbox
Article
 
What Girls Need To Know About Eating Disorders
Article
teen squeezing into jeans
fitfor Teens
 

Special Sections