Why does our belly fat increase with age?

Why does our belly fat increase with age?

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Does the body store more fat in old age?

In old age, we gain more and more belly fat around our organs. Researchers have now found out why this is the case.

The current study by the Yale School of Medicine determined why the belly fat around our organs increases in old age. The results of the study were published in the English-language journal "Cell Metabolism".

The body burns less fat for energy in old age

The researchers tried to find a new treatment to improve metabolic health and discovered why the abdominal fat around the organs increased with age. Previous research has shown that with age, the body's ability to generate energy by burning belly fat continues to decrease. As a result, the fat that surrounds the internal organs increases in older people.

The number of macrophages decreased with age

The immune cells necessary for the fat-burning process, the so-called macrophages, were still active, but their total number declined, the researchers reported on the current test results. This study also showed that certain B cells in abdominal fat increase unexpectedly in old age and contribute to increased inflammation and metabolic impairments.

Dysfunctional B cells contribute to metabolic disorders

The B cells in adipose tissue are a possible source of inflammation. Usually the B cells produce antibodies and protect against infections. But with aging, the B cells become increasingly dysfunctional and contribute to metabolic diseases. This predisposes to diabetes and metabolic disorders and affects fat burning.

Is increased life expectancy part of the problem?

The continuing expansion seems to be due to an increased life expectancy of humans. The body cells are practically strained beyond their evolutionary limits. Several mechanisms in the body are simply not designed for longevity, the researchers report.

How can we protect ourselves?

The team found that B cells expand in adipose tissue by receiving signals from nearby macrophages. In this context, the researchers also found that reducing the macrophage signal and removing B cells from adipose tissue could reverse the expansion process and prevent the age-related decline in metabolic health.

Study opens up new treatment options

The finding could open up new possibilities for the use of already existing drugs in order to specifically influence these dysfunctional B cells in the adipose tissue and to avoid metabolic diseases. A drug called cytokine IL-1B reduces one of the small proteins that drive this process and is already used to protect against heart disease.

More research is needed

It is important to investigate whether reducing this cytokine in older people can reduce B cell expansion in abdominal fat. There are also immunotherapeutics that neutralize B cells that are used in certain types of cancer, and these could also be tested for their effectiveness in reducing metabolic diseases in older people, the researchers emphasize. (as)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Christina D. Camell, Patrick G√ľnther, Aileen Lee, Emily L. Goldberg, Olga Spadaro et al .: Aging Induces an Nlrp3 Inflammasome-Dependent Expansion of Adipose B Cells That Impairs Metabolic Homeostasis, in Cell (query: 18.11.2019), Cell

Video: Mayo Clinic Minute: Why excess belly fat is a health risk for women (January 2023).