Truncal or abdominal obesity is when a person has an excess concentration of fat around the center of their body. It can be a serious issue, but there are various treatment options.

Obesity is a condition where the accumulation of excess fat causes risks to a person’s health.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that a body mass index (BMI) score over 30 falls into the obesity range.

Truncal obesity is when excess fat builds up around the center of a person’s body. However, the best way to measure truncal obesity is using a waist-to-height ratio or raised waist circumference measurement, not their BMI.

This article will cover what truncal obesity is, what causes it, and how to treat it.

A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

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Truncal obesity is when a person has more fat concentrated around the center of their body, such as their stomach and abdomen, than their extremities. It is also known as central obesity, centripetal obesity, and abdominal obesity.

Measuring a person’s waist-to-height ratio is the best way to diagnose truncal obesity. The cutoff point is a ratio of 0.5 between the two measurements.

Another measurement option is raised waist circumference. The waist measurements that equate to truncal obesity are 35–37 inches (in), or 90–94 centimeters (cm) for males and 31.4 in (80cm) for females.

Although it shares issues with other kinds of obesity, truncal obesity can present a higher risk than other types of obesity.

Studies suggest that truncal obesity has stronger associations with cardiovascular issues and chronic disease risk than overall obesity, as measured by BMI. Other risks of truncal obesity include:

A 2019 study found that people who have truncal obesity despite having a BMI score within the range that healthcare professionals consider healthy are at equal or higher risk than people who have truncal obesity and a BMI score within the overweight or obesity range.

Multiple factors can cause truncal obesity. These include dietary factors, medical conditions, and medications.


Truncal obesity, like other kinds of obesity, is usually due to a person taking in more energy than they use. Fat can build up around a person’s abdominal area when they consume more calories than they use for activity and bodily functions.

Some studies suggest that regular alcohol consumption could cause truncal obesity, even among adults within a healthy BMI range.

There is also evidence to suggest that ultra-processed foods contribute to an increased chance of developing truncal obesity.


Truncal obesity can signify Cushing syndrome, a condition that can develop when a person’s body produces too much of the hormone cortisol over a long time.

People with an underactive thyroid gland, or hypothyroidism, can gain weight more easily due to slow metabolism and other issues associated with the condition. This can result in developing truncal obesity more easily. However, there is not much research to establish a direct link.

Similarly, people with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which affects 1 in 10 females, can unexpectedly gain and have difficulty losing weight.

Males with low testosterone or high estrogen levels may also experience these symptoms.


Several kinds of medication can cause truncal obesity as a side effect, including:

There are multiple options for managing truncal obesity, both surgical and nonsurgical.

Nonsurgical treatment

A typical nonsurgical method is weight loss through dietary change and regular exercise.
Taking anti-obesity medications is another nonsurgical option.

An individual should always discuss any kind of medication with a healthcare professional before taking them.

Another method is noninvasive fat removal. A dermatologist performs this procedure using either a handheld device or giving injections to kill fat cells within a particular area.

Surgical treatment

A surgical option is liposuction. This is a procedure in which a surgeon removes fat from a particular body area using a small suction tube. This can reduce a person’s waist circumference and, combined with diet and exercise adjustments, aid weight loss.

Although both these procedures remove fat, there is no evidence they improve metabolic outcomes.

People having these procedures would still benefit from lifestyle changes, such as a balanced diet and regular exercise.

Several surgical options may not directly manage truncal obesity but can help with weight loss. These include a gastric bypass and sleeve gastrectomy. These procedures can help improve metabolic factors, aid in weight loss, and reduce abdominal fat.

No diet that can target truncal obesity specifically. However, weight loss, in general, can help.

Eating a balanced diet and regular exercise can help people achieve and maintain a moderate weight.

A balanced diet involves eating from various food groups to ensure adequate nutrient intake. Foods include:

  • a variety of fruits and vegetables
  • whole grains, such as brown rice, brown bread, and wholegrain pasta
  • low fat milk, fortified soy-based drinks, yogurt, and cheese
  • lean beef, beans, soy foods, lentils, poultry, and seafood

Having a varied and nutrient-dense diet helps people feel satisfied for longer. This can reduce cravings and help prevent people from eating more than they need.

No particular exercise or exercise regime can specifically target truncal obesity.

Doctors typically recommend standard weight loss exercise regimes, including cardio activities, such as walking, jogging, or cycling, and resistance exercises, such as lifting weights.

The CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderately intense physical activity each week.

If a person is concerned that they may have truncal obesity or wants advice on how to manage it, they should speak with a healthcare professional.

A person can measure their waist-to-height ratio and waist circumference at home. However, it is best if a healthcare professional does the assessment to ensure an accurate measurement and diagnosis.

Truncal obesity is a buildup of excess fat around the abdomen.

Although truncal obesity can present a higher risk than overall obesity, it is manageable using standard approaches to weight loss, such as dietary adjustment and regular exercise.

Where standard methods are ineffective or if weight loss is more difficult to achieve due to underlying conditions, a healthcare professional can recommend medical treatment or procedures to help manage truncal obesity.