Excess belly fat, beyond looking bad and having you feeling awful, ups a woman's risk for heart disease, diabetes and now new research finds it also increases their osteoporosis risk. Fat in the tummy has just as devastating an effect on bone health as it does on your heart, liver and pancreas.Harvard researchers studied 50 premenopausal women of different sizes, the average body mass index (BMI) at about 30 (the range being: 19-46, with anything 30 or over being classed as obese). Body mass index is a measure of body fat that's based on your height and weight. All the subjects had a procedure known as MRI spectroscopy, an imaging technique that allowed for accurate measurements of fat deposits, including fat in the bone marrow.The team found that women who had more fat around the abdomen (visceral fat) were more likely to have lower bone mineral density. This can lead to osteoporosis down the line, a condition that's characterized by a decrease in the density of your bones, making them weaker, more fragile and more likely to break after even a minor injury.The researchers also saw an association between the abdominal fat and the levels of bone marrow fat. A lot of bone marrow fat weakens the bone.The thing is, for many years extra weight was believed to protect against bone loss. Turns out, there is even more reason to worry about obesity - those extra pounds don't do anything to help in terms of bone strength.Knowing that obesity is a significant public health problem, this makes experts especially concerned about the risks so many are taking with their health.Estimates from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Disease (NIAMS) suggest a possible 10 million Americans (mostly female) are currently diagnosed with osteoporosis. Another 34 million of us have low bone mass that puts us at risk for developing this bone weakening disease in the future.So, what puts you at risk of osteoporosis?- Deficiency in estrogen, being a woman ups your risk, and as you get older that risk only goes up.- A diet lacking calcium and vitamin D, especially dangerous over a lifetime.- Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia.- Medications like corticosteroids (prednisone, cortisone, prednisolone and dexamethasone), aromatase inhibitors for breast cancer, antidepressant selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, cancer drug methotrexate, proton pump inhibitors and antacids and some anti seizure drugs.- A sedentary lifestyle increases your risk compared to those who are more active. Any workout is helpful, including walking, running, dancing, housework, gardening and weight lifting.- Excess alcohol intake - more than 2 alcoholic drinks a day.- Smoking contributes to weak bones, though the exact mechanism is yet to be fully understood.The researchers are now looking at men to see if the association between belly fat and bone health holds true for them as well.If you're concerned about your own risk of developing osteoporosis, there are things you can do to help yourself - especially if you've got fat in your abdominal area.While there is no proven diet or treatment to get rid of that belly fat, there are things you can to reduce it. Even a little bit of activity to get you started is good. And you don't need to start some kind of life-changing, deprivation-fuelled eating plan. Sensible eating is best; meaning you don't have to cut out favorite foods, but put limits on the things you know aren't good for you.The simple trick to losing excess belly fat and weight loss in general - work to burn more calories than you take in - and you'll see results, while helping your bones stay stronger, minimizing osteoporosis risk at the same time.