Belly Fat May Be Worse Than Obesity
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..
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…
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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 …