Belly Fat Not Only Weighs You Down But is Bad For Bones

Updated: April 26, 2023

Lara Pizzorno is the author of “Your Bones: How You Can Prevent Osteoporosis and Have Strong Bones for Life – Naturally” and a member of the American Medical Writers Association with 29 years of experience specializing in bone health.

Recently we asked Lara if she would help us provide a series of short, ongoing videos to help you (our customers and readers) stay up to date on the latest facts and science related to bone health.

In this latest video, Lara discusses the latest research on VAT (visceral adipose tissue) also known as belly fat and why it’s bad for your bones. Watch the video below (or read the transcript provided) and let us know what you think in the comments. 🙂

Hello, I’m Lara Pizzorno the author of “Your Bones” and I’m here today to share some information with your from the breaking research that’s relevant for bone health and I hope will help you have healthier bones.

Today I’d like to talk with you about VAT. Stands for Visceral Adipose Tissue and it is negatively associated with bone mineral density and our ability to maintain our muscle mass. You know it’s almost spring and soon all those heavy belly camouflaging clothes are going to be put away. It’s definitely time for us to get it in gear and lose that extra belly that is so unhelpful for our bones.

If you could use a little science-based inspiration to help you navigate unscathed past the chocolate chip cookie and candy aisles in your grocery store, a study just published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in the February issue, shows that Visceral Adipose Tissue lowers your bone mineral density, which causes your muscles to shrink.

So you know we used to think that high body mass, in other words being overweight, put more stress on bone and thus caused bone to become stronger, but now we know it ain’t so.

Why? Well too much belly fat drives fat to accumulate in tissues where fat is not supposed to be found. This is an unhealthy condition and it is called ectopic adiposity. And ectopic adiposity is strongly associated with metabolic diseases such as insulin resistance that leads to and is seen in type 2 diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

When fat infiltrates skeletal muscle, this research shows that it very harmful impacts bone as well. Ectopic adipose tissue can be deposited in your bones long before you meet the criterion for obesity or be considered at clinical risk for fatty liver or type 2 diabetes or bone loss.

What happens? Well the unhappy belly fat, releases pro-inflammatory adiposite derived, in other words fat produced hormones and cytokines and these are signalling molecules that provoke inflammation and that in turn provokes osteoclasts to remove bone.

The most recent paper that was published this month (February 2015) discusses the results of a study that was done at the University of Michigan Health System and involves 7,203 patients, 46% of them were women and 53% were men. Study participants ranged in age from 18 to 64.9 years and CT scans were taken for each of the participants every year from 1995 to 2013. Then they looked at the results and they used them to evaluate fat filtration into muscle, specifically into the psoas muscle as a marker, as an indicator and the relationship between ectopic fat and bone mineral density in both cortical and trabecular bone.

You may remember that trabecular bone is the interior spongy bone that’s inside your bones and the cortical bone is more like the hard, outer shell. Different types of bone have more cortical bone than other types. So the primary finding was that VAT or belly fat is strongly and adversely associated with bone mineral density in the spine both vertebral and trabecular and cortical bone mineral densities and also with muscle shrinkage in adults, even after we make adjustments for body mass index and age.

These findings are really important because being overweight has often been said to be a protective factor for bone health and muscle strength because greater demands are being placed on muscle and bone form just having to lift and maneuver a heavy body. But now we know that having a higher BMI means carrying more belly fat and visceral adipose tissue or belly fat is considered to be the underlying driver that links obesity and overweight to cardiometabolic chronic diseases like fatty liver, insulin resistance, high blood pressure and diabetes and now we’re going to add osteoporosis and osteopenia to that list.

Obesity and being sedentary especially in older results, greatly increases weakness and sarcopenia (muscle wasting). A big belly makes it worse, but you can even be thin and still have sarcopenia if you are being sedentary and don’t use your muscles.

It’s really important to do regular weight bearing exercise and resistance exercise. Weak muscles create a risk for falling and a fall increases your risk of fracture.

And men, you are not exempt here! You and middle aged men tend to have a large portion of VAT or belly fat to their total amount of body fat than women do. We ladies tend to carry our fat on our hips and thighs, proverbial pear shape, in contrast to the apple shape that is seen more in men. This propensity of having greater VAT may put men at earlier risk of what is called diminished spinal musculoskeletal quality. In other words, fatty muscles and bone loss.

There was another study that was published in March of last year March, 2014 that confirms this. BMI and body fat were tracked in more than 2000 men over a 5-year period. Increases in body mass index and body fat coincided very neatly with decreases in both muscle and bone mass. Average fat mass increased by 9% average bone mass decreased by 1.6% in men and this unhappy effect occurred when the average percent of fat in men had only increased a little from 23.4% to 25.2%. Lean body mass decreased more than 2% and bone mass decreased from 4-3%.

Many of these men were young. The age stratification at baseline ensured that there were approximately 100 men for each 5 year age group and started at age 20. So the age group ran 20-24, 25-29, 30-34, 35-39, 40-44, 45-49, 50-54, 55-59, 60-64 and 65-69 years and they had approximately 200 men for each of the age groups. They also had men who were 70-79 and 80 years and older so this was not just an effect that was seen in the older men.

So what’s the takeaway here?

Well now over 35% of adults in the United States are considered obese, but even being overweight is going to increase bone loss if you are carrying that weight on your belly. So please, try and give your bones and the rest of your body the care they deserve. Make it a priority to get some regular aerobic and resistance exercise and eat the bone building diet that I layout in “Your Bones” and ensure your bones are getting the nutrients they need, the key nutrients – these will be supplied for you with AlgaeCal Plus.

In the next couple of videos I’m going to share with you the latest research that also shows how calcium and AlgaeCal Plus has four different kinds of plant-derived calcium. Calcium helps us burn more fat. It helps us excrete more fat, burn more fat and lose more fat – a lot more fat if we restrict our calories a little bit. And it also helps us not feel hungry while we’re doing it. So this research was really inspiring for me, I hope you tune in and will inspire you as well. Thanks for joining me today.


Zhang P, Peterson M, Su GL, et al. Visceral adiposity is negatively associated with bone density and muscle attenuation. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Feb;101(2):337-43. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.113.081778. Epub 2014 Nov 26. PMID: 25646331

Pasco JA, Gould H, Brennan SL, et al. Musculoskeletal deterioration in men accompanies increases in body fat. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2014 Mar;22(3):863-7. doi: 10.1002/oby.20496. Epub 2013 Dec 2. PMID: 23625641

Ogden C, Carroll M, Kit B, Flegal K. Prevalence of obesity among adults: United States, 2011–2012. NCHS Data Brief. 2013 Oct;(131):1-8. PMID: 24152742

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This article features advice from our industry experts to give you the best possible info through cutting-edge research.

Lara Pizzorno
MDiv, MA, LMT - Best-selling author of Healthy Bones Healthy You! and Your Bones; Editor of Longevity Medicine Review, and Senior Medical Editor for Integrative Medicine Advisors.,
Dr. Liz Lipski
PhD, CNS, FACN, IFMP, BCHN, LDN - Professor and Director of Academic Development, Nutrition programs in Clinical Nutrition at Maryland University of Integrative Health.,
Dr. Loren Fishman
MD, B.Phil.,(oxon.) - Medical Director of Manhattan Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation and Founder of the Yoga Injury Prevention Website.,
Prof. Didier Hans
PHD, MBA - Head of Research & Development Center of Bone Diseases, Lausanne University Hospital CHUV, Switzerland,