Excess abdominal fat, or belly fat, is a source of vexation in middle age. But the good news is that by understanding its cause and by taking steps to control your weight, you can prevent your waistline from spreading.

​“One of the primary causes of middle-age weight gain is hormonal imbalance. In women, they experience weight gain during perimenopause – the period leading to menopause – due to declining progesterone levels and relative preservation of oestrogen levels,” explains Dr Sonali Ganguly, Senior Consultant from the Department of Endocrinology at Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the SingHealth​ group.​​

Though oestrogen dominance may contribute to the extra kilos, other reasons such as stress, a sedentary lifestyle and poor eating habits also lead to middle-age weight gain, adds Dr Ganguly, who works at SGH’s Lifestyle Improvement & Fitness Enhancement (LIFE) Centre.

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5 Main causes of middle-age weight gain and belly fat

1. Lower metabolic rate​

The body’s metabolic rate naturally slows down with age in both men and women. Burning less calories means gaining more kilos. You can boost your metabolism with regular exercise.

2. Less muscle mass​​

The body’s muscle mass starts to shrink from the age of 30, leading to weight gain. Muscles burn more calories and keep your body lean.

3. Weight gain in menopause

For women, the hormonal imbalance continues into menopause with oestrogen levels dropping drastically. The body responds by retaining fat so that it can draw oestrogen from fat cells. The result? More belly fat! For men, it is the fall in testosterone levels that causes weight gain around the midriff.

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4. Sedentary lifestyle

Many men and women tend to have a more sedentary lifestyle in their middle age. This further slows down the already declining metabolic rate

5. Stress

A high-pressure job (and a global COVID-19 pandemic) means the body tends to be under continual stress. As the stress hormone cortisol sends messages to the brain to store up fuel to fight stress, you may end up eating more. The excess calories are stored as belly fat.

Read more: Effective (and safe) ways to lose weight and belly fat 


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