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Belly Fat – The Enemy Within

Belly Fat May Be Worse Than Obesity

Beerbelly and belly fat pose distinct health threats

Beerbelly (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The silly science behind the recent report that being overweight, including the excess belly fat that usually accompanies it, may not be much of a health threat after all was discussed in a previous post (see “Weight Loss Fallacies and Fraudulent Science“).

This post seeks to draw your attention away from the crude and often meaningless BMI (Body Mass Index) calculation to a more obvious, and dangerous, threat you don’t need a calculator to assess.

You can size it up this very minute. Just peer down to your midsection.

Take what you see into account as you read why a spare tire around your waist spells nothing but trouble for you and your wallet (see Our Healthcare Sucks for more on how your future need for healthcare will hit your pocketbook).

Why I Call It A “Plot (as in “R.I.P.”) Belly”

Your waist size is far more important than your weight or BMI from the perspective of your risk for disease and premature death.

A waist over 40” in men and over 35” in women has been associated with a broad range of diseases. This is largely attributed to the active metabolic role of visceral belly fat (apple-shape) as opposed to the benign (subcutaneous) fat that’s stored in hips and thighs (pear-shape).

This helps explain why women – prone more to the pear than the apple shape – outlive men despite higher overall rates of obesity and overweight. Fat thighs and buttocks may not win any beauty contests, but it’s far less threatening to one’s health than a manly beer belly (see “Nutrition & Diet Are Your Best Medicine” for more on this).

Of course, women with excess belly fat are no better off than their male counterparts, as you’ll see below.

In the following video, Dr. Oz explains why a waist size that’s less than half your height in inches may be a better goal than the simplistic 40″ for men and 35″ for women that’s commonly used. That’s because it accounts for the other crucial determinant – your height – of whether your waist is in healthy proportion for your body.

While there’s much to criticize in some of Dr. Oz’s on-air material, he’s right-on about this. So give it a look-see.

Spare Tires, Pot Bellies & Love Handles..
Oh My!

A study in The New England Journal of Medicine found that over a 10-year period men with the largest waist circumferences had more than double the risk of death, while women with the largest waist circumferences had a 78% greater risk of death.

Interestingly, mortality was highest among men with excess abdominal fat but a lower BMI, meaning even those of “normal” weight but having pot bellies risk premature death.

This was borne out by another study that found among normal weight women (BMI 18.5 to <25), abdominal obesity was associated with a relative mortality risk from cardiovascular disease of 3-7 times that of women with the lowest waist circumferences.

Relative risk with the highest-to-lowest waist circumferences for all women in the study were…

  • 79% greater for all cause mortality,

  • 99% greater for cardiovascular mortality, and

  • 63% greater for cancer mortality.

These data confirm the greater risk of death from all causes associated with excess abdominal fat, especially for those of normal weight.

The reasons for this are complex, but worth understanding to enhance your personal commitment to combat this life-threatening phenomenon we give innocent names like “spare tire”, “pot belly”, and “love handles”.

As you’ll see…

There’s Nothing Innocuous About Belly Fat

“Visceral” fat in the mid-section overflows into vital organs and compromises their healthy function (e.g., non-alcoholic fatty liver disease that’s emerged as yet another obesity-driven epidemic).

This is why defining obesity by BMI level is so misleading. It simply is wrong when it categorizes bodybuilders as obese because their BMIs are generally over 30. Likewise, it’s off when it lumps those with extremely low BMIs as healthy when they may be anything but.

Meanwhile, millions with so-called “normal” BMIs take unjustified comfort when they’re “skinny fat” – meaning they have normal BMIs but pot belies. It’s this “central obesity” that matters most from a health perspective, not BMI. Here’s why.

Belly fat emits toxic cytokines that can damage blood vessels and that’s associated with metabolic syndrome – a precursor to diabetes.

Cytokines are signaling proteins involved in cellular communications that play a dominant role in maintaining the inflammatory processes of the body’s immune system. There are two main types and they need to be in balance – in homeostasis – to avoid chronic inflammation and maintain optimal health.

Central obesity – belly fat – overproduces the pro-inflammatory cytokines and can lead to uncontrolled tissue damage, immune dysfunction and other disease processes mentioned by Dr. Oz in the above video.

Notice the word “uncontrolled” – a term we associate most with cancer, not belly fat.

So am I suggesting belly fat is akin to a form of cancer – or perhaps a driver of cancer?

Read On and You Be the Judge

One study looked at older people of normal weight and found the following…

Next: Obesity, Skinny-Fat & Disease – The Skinny on Skinny Fat

[kc_background type=”1″]Add your own thoughts & observations below[/kc_background]

6 Ways to Shrink Your Belly (And 5 Don’t Include … – Huffington Post
Jan 11, 2013 If you’re looking to shrink and tone your belly, there’s a better way to do it than trying to do crunches. In fact, research has indicated that doing


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16 Awesome Comments So Far

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  1. Steve
    December 18, 2015 at 11:32 pm #

    Thanks for sharing this informative article. It’s also important to know how to prevent getting belly fat such as eating foods rich in fiber and protein. And of course, exercising.

  2. Jackson
    January 16, 2014 at 10:36 pm #

    Great post!I think belly fat doesn’t just lay idle at your beltline. Researchers describe it as an active “organ” in your body — one that churns out hormones and inflammatory substances.

    • John Lynch
      January 19, 2014 at 4:52 pm #

      That’s correct – and helps explain its harmful effects on organs in and near the abdomen. Experts no longer regard fat as a passive storage container, but – as you note – more like an active organ, albeit a damaged one.

  3. David Patrick
    January 16, 2014 at 12:18 pm #

    In a year-long study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, participants of an online weight loss plan lost more than twice the weight of participants who took part in a more traditional program. It has been shown that people who have used online weight loss plans for 18 months were able to maintain significant weight loss.
    Many studies now show that Internet programs are viable tools to help people maintain weight loss over the long term. In one study, a group of 250 people lost weight over a six-month period and maintained weight loss for 12 months afterwards using an online weight loss plan.

  4. Jack Wordy
    November 30, 2013 at 5:59 am #

    This is quite an eye opening article ? I never knew belly fat could affect us in this way. I will now take precautions to become more healthy.

  5. Carmen Z.
    August 27, 2013 at 1:30 pm #

    Great Video…quite graphic and to the point!!! Might I add: to Double your daily water intake on days after a food binge. Dr. Oz’s point about making a U-turn was right on…. Most people underestimate how effective proper hydration can be for UNDOING the damage of over-eating. For EVERY gram of active carbohydrates you eat on a daily basis, your body will hold about 3 grams of water. Drinking tons of water helps remove that “bloated” look.

  6. Donald Quixote
    August 21, 2013 at 7:26 pm #

    Interesting article…pretty much stay in shape and avoid the pot-belly or any excess fat on the body…and reading someone else’s comment your food intake is often more important to consider than your exercise regime. You can always overeat your workout.

  7. karen
    August 12, 2013 at 8:46 pm #

    Great information because belly fat really can be an enemy for people health, as it is associated with cardiovascular problems and more. Thank you.

  8. carlos
    August 4, 2013 at 1:26 pm #

    really another great article grom this blog just thanks you all

  9. Daniel Bryant
    June 13, 2013 at 8:56 am #

    Reading this I think that I need to loose some wieght and pronto. Its the drink for me that really puts the wieght on. I am not quite a 40 yet but not far off. I am working out at the moment but not really watching the calories. This has given me a bit of a wakeup call…….Thanks.

  10. Abby Ang
    May 14, 2013 at 1:47 am #

    Thank you very much for sharing this very informative article. Yes, I do believe that belly fat may be worse than obesity. We should always remember that exercise is the key so that we wont have this belly fat. Just exercise and eat the right kind of food.

  11. Andy
    May 3, 2013 at 11:42 am #

    I totally agree with this article. I am annoyed at being classed as ‘obese’ just because I am a bodybuilder, it is 100% fact that muscle is denser than fat which can make bodybuilders heavier than non bodybuilders.
    BMI is simply a crude attempt at mathematically modelling human body composition.

  12. Chloe Wallace
    April 29, 2013 at 12:08 am #

    The only thing I knew to be the reason for belly fat for men is alcohol drinking.

  13. CJ
    April 28, 2013 at 6:21 pm #

    Good info-and really scary. That fat around the middle is, well, deadly. I don’t believe in “spot training”, but I will say that consistent exercise-of any kind at first-is absolutely necessary to begin dropping those pounds. Or die.

  14. Lee
    March 10, 2013 at 4:04 am #


    Really relevant post. I still can’t understand why so many people haven’t grasped that exercising at a too high intensity burns all their carbs up, leaving them really hungry and they eat to much afterwards – instead of the low intensity, fat-burning exercise they should be doing. It isn’t rocket science. There has to be a campaign to encourage people to get inventive; even like small exercise wheels you can put under your desk and peddle slowly would be great for your circulation as well.

    Great stuff. Lee

    March 6, 2013 at 2:33 am #

    This is a very informative blog. There are some procedures available to remove belly fat. Some offer no surgery fat removal process.

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