One of the ways men and women differ is in the accumulation and storage of body fat. Women tend to store fat in their hips, thighs and buttocks, while men tend to accumulate fat around their waists and abdomens. This abdominal form of excess body fat is often called a "spare tire," or sometimes "middle age spread." Some have even created a fictitious condition called "Dunlap's disease", in which the sufferer's stomach "done lapped" over his belt. While the development of a spare tire may appear to be a natural part of the aging process, excessive abdominal fat in men can contribute to a number of serious health problems.
There are actually two kinds of fat involved in the spare tire process. Some body fat is stored just under the abdominal skin and is called subcutaneous fat. This subcutaneous fat is responsible for most of the abdominal distension associated with this condition. If a man elects to undergo liposuction to reduce a spare tire, the surgeon can only remove subcutaneous fat cells. The problem is that these fat deposits can and will grow back in time.
It is the other type of fat which can make a spare tire form of fat storage dangerous. Fat cells also form between and around abdominal organs such as the kidney, liver and spleen. This form of fat is called visceral fat, and it cannot be removed through liposuction. Visceral fat is not generally created through a high fat diet or lack of regular exercise. Visceral fat is often created as a reaction to long-term stress, which triggers an overabundance of natural chemicals such as cortisol and adrenaline. These chemicals trigger the body's own development of visceral fat in the abdomen, and the result is a distended stomach region.
Those men who carry around a spare tire of fat around their waists or abdomens also face a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The excess fat cells are believed to overstimulate the production of insulin by the pancreas. If too much insulin is produced over time, the blood becomes resistant to the insulin's effects on blood sugar levels. Once the body becomes completely resistant to natural insulin, type 2 or adult onset diabetes can develop. This is why physicians often urge men to take whatever steps are necessary to reduce the size of the abdomen.
There is also medical evidence which suggests men with significant abdominal fat are more likely to develop heart conditions later in life. One theory is that the spare tire adds enough body weight to put serious stress on the heart during normal activities. The liver and other organs may not produce as many heart-friendly chemicals and enzymes if they have been compromised by visceral fat. If the liver cannot process the additional cholesterol create by a poor diet, then the heart may not be able to repair itself in time to prevent strokes or heart attacks.
Many fitness experts say that a spare tire cannot be permanently reduced through isolated abdominal or core exercises alone. Visceral fat can only be successfully addressed through stress reduction techniques and at least 30 minutes of dynamic movement (walking, jogging, cycling, etc.) per day. Fat-restrictive diets may help reduce some of the subcutaneous fat, but exercises such as crunches or sit-ups are designed to strengthen abdominal muscles, not to remove fat cells from the body. Most men and women actually have the structure for "six pack abs," but the excessive accumulation of fat keeps them from becoming noticed by others.