Relentless belly fat that plagues middle-age and elderly adults could be caused by inflammation, a new study has found.
The report's researchers concluded that drugs that target this inflammation could spike their metabolism and help them burn more fat, which decreases their risk of chronic illnesses, reported the Daily Mail.
High amounts of body fat can lead to fatal diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, and it can cause strokes.
Experts are hopeful that the new analysis provides a way to lessen the effects of the obesity epidemic in America, where more than 35 per cent of adults are overweight.
Research has shown that older adults have higher amounts of body fat, regardless of their weight.
But being active does not help them shed the fat around their waistline as easily as younger adults. This is because their bodies cannot burn energy found in their fat cells as efficiently.
This cycle leads to an accumulation of belly fat and, until know, the reason that fat cells were unresponsive when older people worked out was unknown.
But researchers at Yale University, led by Professor Vishwa Deep Dixit, discovered that the culprit is inflammation.
For the study they focused on specialized cells known as macrophages, which are typically involved in controlling infections.
They discovered a new type of macrophage that resides on the nerves in belly fat, which becomes inflamed with age. These inflamed cells do not allow signals to be sent to fat cells telling them to burn their stored energy.
The team's discovery could lead to new treatments, such as drugs targeting inflammation, to help the elderly get a flatter stomach.
Future research on the topic will look at immune cells and their interaction with nerves, and how this relationship controls health and disease.
Study author Christina Camell said: "The purpose of our research is to achieve greater understanding of immune cell interactions with nerves and fat cells to potentially reduce belly fat, enhance metabolism and improve performance in the elderly."
Researchers at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and the University of Bonn in Germany also worked on the new report.
The research was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the Glenn Foundation for Medical Research and the Cure Alzheimer's Fund.
TOP TIPS FOR BATTLING THE BULGE
Obesity can lead to heart disease, strokes, some types of cancer, and diabetes.
The CDC has provided these tips to help you control your weight and avoid fatal ailments:
• Use tools such as BMI calculators and waist circumference measurements to make sure you are staying in a healthy weight range
• Track your calorie intake so you are more aware of how much you are consuming
Look up the nutritional value of foods you are considering eating
• Try to implement the minimum amount of physical activity you should be getting into your schedule
• Choose healthy recipes over ones that call for foods that are harmful to your body