The Straits Times, Mind Your Body, 04 September 2008, By ALVIN LIM
Pot belly in men is a common symptom of ageing, as lower levels of testosterone cause fat to accumulate at the waist.
Are you male, above the age of 40 and not exercising regularly?
If your answer is “yes” to all three questions, you are at risk of developing the dreaded male middle-age spread or pot belly. You might even have one already.
This could be caused by the effects of ageing. While much ink has flowed over the matter of female menopause, much less has been aired about the male version of the same – andropause.
While a pot belly is commonly associated with heavy beer drinking and obesity, it is also a common indication of andropause.
Simply put, andropause means low testosterone levels due to ageing, said Dr Fong Yan Kit, a Consultant Urologist at Raffles Hospital.
Low levels of the male hormone testosterone can give rise to the development of more central fat, or fat that accumulates around the waist.
Dr Fong said studies have shown that about 30 to 50 per cent of men aged between 40 and 70 will experience andropause.
A man’s testosterone level peaks at about 30 to 35 years of age.
Dr Fong said: “Some men above the age of 40 will begin to have a level that is too low and will start experiencing symptoms of andropause.”
There are four common symptoms of andropause: low libido (sex drive), weak erections, feeling constantly tired and developing a pot belly.
Dr Fong said that a man does not have to experience all the symptoms in order to have andropause.
“It’s just like having the flu… its typical symptoms are cough, a runny nose and a sore throat. However, you don’t need to experience all three to have the flu,” he explained.
Not all men with andropause will develop a pot belly and it is also possible for lesser-built men to develop one, said Dr Fong.
The good news is that andropause is “very treatable” with testosterone replacement, he said.
“If you notice a combination of the symptoms, go for a simple blood test to determine if you have a low testosterone level.”
The patient can choose to undergo testosterone injections or go on a pill, Andriol, which replaces testosterone.
As for the pot belly, there is no other way out but to stay healthy through healthy eating and regular exercise, said Dr Fong.
“It’s always good to watch your diet and do adequate exercise. After all, obesity can also be associated with low testosterone levels,” he added.
Middle-aged women are also not spared from belly fat, said Dr Watt Wing Fong, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at Raffles Hospital.
It is otherwise known as central obesity, where the fat is deposited in the internal organs in the abdomen.
There are several reasons: decreased resting metabolic rate with increasing age, low level of physical activity and hormonal changes as a result of menopause.
Belly fat can also be part of Metabolic Syndrome, which affects both men and women.
It is a major risk factor for heart disease, strokes and diabetes.
Dr Watt said that exercise, diet control and medication for weight reduction and to increase insulin sensitivity will help with reducing belly fat in women.
“Doing aerobic exercises and increasing activity especially after eating, abstaining from fatty and oily foods and having adequate sleep can help reduce belly fat,” she said.