While the modern world is inarguably more body positive than the older generations, it’s still not allowed people with considerable belly fat to rest well.
After all, even a slight potbelly could change your entire appearance. That is especially true in Indian society, where chubbiness in a kid is a mark of a “healthy growing baby,” but the same empathy does not extend to an adult.
To add fuel to the fire, there seems to be an ever-growing relationship between Indians and belly fat – a one-sided love affair that refuses to let go. It appears that most Indians, especially adults and small children, have high belly fat percentages.
The National Family Health Survey in 2016 estimated that over 135 million Indians are overweight or obese. If that is the case, imagine how many Indians are victims of high levels of belly fat without falling into the obese category.
So is there any primary reason for tummy fat that plagues the Indian subcontinent? Let’s find out.
Why Do Most Indians Have Belly Fat?
If you’re looking for a single, major reason for belly fat in Indians, you’ll be disappointed. Instead, many factors, including genetics, lifestyle, and nutrition, dictate the anatomy of the human body from a geographical viewpoint.
It’s also important to realize that one can have two kinds of body fat: subcutaneous and visceral fat. The former is the fatty tissues that form a layer under the skin and supply oxygen to tissues, blood cells, etc.
The latter forms a layer around the organs to form a protective cushion. However, too much visceral fat can lead to pot bellies, which ultimately can bring about deadly consequences like diabetes, heart problems, and so on.
So, without further ado, let’s dissect and figure out why Indians seem to have more belly fat than usual.
There is a vast difference in the activity levels of an Indian and a European. The gym culture is vastly popular in Western countries. Even if you’re not hitting the gym, pushing in extra hours of high-intensity activities like sports, running, and light exercising is expected of you.
In India, the fitness culture is growing among the youth. But its lack of prevalence among the older generation is already showing harmful impacts. According to a survey, only 37% of Indians exercise daily if we count sports, gym, or light workouts.
The difference in activity levels contributes to the growing belly fat percentages among the Indian population.
Prolonged stress can undoubtedly affect your mental health. But over time, you’ll feel its effect physically as well.
Cortisol, popularly called the “stress hormone,” is responsible for your body’s flight or fight response. For example, in an emergency, Cortisol can elevate or decrease your body’s blood sugar and metabolism to activate either the “flight” or “fight” response. Everything goes back to normal after the danger is averted.
However, under prolonged stress, your body’s blood pressure and sugar levels will remain constantly elevated. In such a situation, cortisol receptors which are stored around the belly, hold onto the fat cells inside the body instead of using them for energy generation.
So increased cortisol levels will get you more belly fat, even if you’re not eating. But that might often not be the case, as increased stress levels also lead to binge eating.
A study revealed that around 74% of Indians suffer from prolonged stress, making it more apparent why the citizens tend to have rounder pot bellies.
In a developing country like India, proper nutrition is still not accessible to most of the population. There is a severe problem regarding undernutrition, especially in terms of protein intake, among Indian children and teenagers.
Even for those who are blessed with food on their tables every night, the dietary standards of India are very different from those of Europe and America.
Besides the extravagant three-course meals, including high-calorie desserts and beverages, that Indians often enjoy, the staple meals aren’t much better.
For instance, the average salt intake by an adult in India is 10.98 grams in a day, as opposed to the recommended 5 grams per day. More sodium intake, especially double the recommended amount, is a sure-shot path to obesity and increased belly fat. There are other similar unhealthy patterns in the average Indian diet.
Fortunately, nutrition is one domain where Indians can take a stand and change things for the better. A well-planned Indian diet chart for weight loss can help them lower their body fat percentage and get rid of the stubborn potbelly.
It’s common to see Indians engage in alcohol consumption and drinking activities. While there are other health issues associated with alcohol addiction, an unhealthy increase in belly fat could be a prominent side effect.
Consumption of alcohol, for instance, leads to what many call the ‘beer belly.’ Prolonged drinking habits can lower the testosterone levels in your body, which is directly associated with increased abdominal fat.
Similarly, alcohol serves as fuel for your body’s energy needs. In such a situation, excess glucose and lipids are wasted as adipose tissue in the abdomen region.
Earlier, genes weren’t treated as one of the significant reasons behind potbellies. However, recent studies indicate that genetics play a vital role in a person’s body structure.
The Plexin D1 Gene, for instance, reportedly pushes the fat to gather around the middle region of the body. As a result, people carrying such genetics have an ‘apple-shaped’ body rather than a ‘pear-shaped’ one.
According to a British study, Indian Asians tend to carry a specific gene that makes them “heavier” and less immune to the threat of diabetes.
These genetic variations, the study denoted, are 3.8kg heavier than similar people of European ancestry. It also uncovered that these gene variants lead to a 2cm expansion of the waist circumference, further increasing the risk of belly fat among Indians.
Body Composition and Metabolism
There is a definite racial difference in the bodily anatomy of Indians when compared to Europeans.
A study found that Indian kids tend to weigh less than their European counterparts during birth. Their body mass indexes were also comparatively lower than European babies. However, the fat percentage in their bodies was still higher than those found in the bodies of European newborns.
Because of a multitude of factors such as genetics, environment, and body composition, the overall build of Indians is different, with different metabolic performances. They tend to develop more fatty tissues, even without consuming as much food.
Thus, the same weight loss techniques would affect Indians and Europeans very differently.
Despite all the hurdles, effective fat loss techniques do exist that can help you get rid of your stubborn potbelly.
However, it’s true that genetics and other environmental factors do intervene in how your overall body structure looks.
Indians have to deal with many factors that can aggravate the ‘belly fat’ situation, including their lifestyle, dietary habits, access to proper gym facilities, collective stress, and so on.
But where there’s a way, there’s a will. With proper nutrition and exercising, you can gradually lower your body fat percentage, effectively losing your belly fat in the process.