What is Abdominal Obesity?

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  • Written By: Geisha A. Legazpi
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 30 September 2019
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Obesity can be classified into different types based on where fat deposition is located. Abdominal obesity refers to excess fat deposition within the abdomen. This fat deposit is called visceral fat, and is significant because it increases the risk for many adverse health events. Among clinicians, abdominal obesity is also known as central obesity. People outside the medical community refer to it as belly fat, beer belly, or potbelly.

There are various causes of central obesity, but the most evident is the intake of excess calories without a corresponding increase in energy expenditure. Overeating, together with physical inactivity or a sedentary lifestyle, is the primary cause. Endocrinological diseases, such as Cushing’s syndrome, and drugs, such as steroids, have also been implicated in central obesity.

Abdominal obesity is suspected among people who have an apple-shaped body type. Determining the severity of abdominal obesity depends on waist and hip circumference measurements. Among men, it is diagnosed when the waist circumference is greater than 40 inches (102 cm) and the waist-to-hip ratio is greater than 0.9. In women, it is diagnosed when the waist circumference is greater than 35 inches (88 cm) and the waist-to-hip ratio is greater than 0.85.


According to studies, measures of abdominal obesity predict obesity health risks more accurately than measurement of body mass index (BMI). For instance, the abdominal obesity metabolic syndrome association is very evident among people who have excessive waist circumference. In fact, along with an elevated blood pressure, increased low-density lipoproteins (LDL), decreased high-density lipoproteins (HDL), and increased blood sugar, the International Diabetes Federation considers central obesity as the primary criterion for metabolic syndrome.

Visceral fat is located within the abdominal cavity, so compression of abdominal organs such as the liver, kidneys, and abdominal aorta may occur. This could lead to obesity abdominal pain symptoms. Another possible link between central obesity and abdominal pain is the increased risk of gallstones among obese people. Abdominal pain due to gallstones usually occurs in the right upper quadrant of the abdomen.

There is an increased risk for diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease among people who have this condition, so abdominal obesity treatment is needed. Proper dietary modification and regular aerobic exercise are still considered the first-line treatments for this condition. For people who have difficulty losing weight through diet and exercise alone, orlistat, a drug that decreases fat absorption, may be prescribed. Surgery, such as bariatric surgery or gastric bypass surgery, may be considered for patients who do not respond to diet, exercise, and medication.


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Post 3

@KoiwiGal - I don't think that people should judge either. But I also don't think it's wise to say that fat isn't a health issue at all. Everything is a health issue, but for some reason fat is particularly vilified. We don't make fun of people for eating cured meats, even though they have been directly linked to cancer.

If someone happens to have abdominal obesity then that is their own business. I think they should be educated about the risks, like people are educated about the risks of skydiving and then let them make decisions like a grownup.

Post 2

@pastanaga - It's true that men tend to develop what they call a beer belly more easily than some women, but everyone is different and has different ways of storing fat.

And it's really important for people to realize that looking fat doesn't necessarily mean that the person is unhealthy and looking thin doesn't mean that they are healthy.

It's still possible to have dangerous amounts of abdominal fat even if you don't look obese. It has more to do with cardio-vascular fitness than the amount of fat someone has on their body.

Which is why people shouldn't be judgmental about obesity and claim that they are looking after the health of the person they are judging.

Post 1

So, apparently a tendency towards this is why men are often at higher risk of heart failure than women. They put on more fat around the waist and stomach, while women put on more fat on the buttocks and hips.

It makes sense from a physical point of view, because fat on the torso is more likely to be compressing or otherwise interfering with the organs, while fat on the thighs and hips wouldn't do much to interfere with body functions.

On the other hand, men generally tend to lose weight faster than women because they have more muscle mass, so I guess we all have different biological advantages.

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