The amount of abdominal fat we have, has a far greater health implication than the fit of our clothes. In general, excess abdominal fat is a harbinger of cardiovascular and other health disorders. Excess abdominal fat is defined as a waist measuring more than 40 inches for men, and more than 35 inches for women.
According to the president of American Diabetes Association, Samuel Dagogo-Jack, MD, the fat in the abdomen is a kind of visceral fat, which is present around the organs. This kind of fat produces toxins and cytokines that increase the risk of various kinds of diseases. Even if you are not overweight, but have a high ratio of abdominal fat, you could be having a high risk of disease.
Read on to know more about these health problems, and what you can do about them:
- Cardiovascular disease
As mentioned before, visceral fat produces hormones and toxins that impact the other organs. The horde of chemicals that the visceral fat produces includes substances like retinol-binding protein 4 (RBP4), which has been linked to increased risk of coronary artery disease. The link of this RBP4 has been established with developing metabolic syndrome, as well as type II diabetes and insulin resistance.
Another study known as The Million Women Study carried out in the UK, found a direct link between coronary artery disease, and waist circumference over a period of 20 years. In women with higher waist circumference, the chances of developing coronary artery disease were almost twice as high. An addition of two inches in the waist is linked to a 10 percent increase in the risk of coronary artery disease.
- Insulin resistance and type II diabetes
The risk of metabolic syndrome and type II diabetes can increase many folds if you have excess fat around your belly. The chemicals that the visceral fat release into the bloodstream cause insulin resistance—which means that body is unable to use insulin present in the blood, and a higher amount has to be released to ensure that glucose gets into the cells. With more insulin resistance, chances of type II diabetes are also increased greatly. The result is an array of diseases, known as metabolic syndrome.
Higher visceral fat leads to storage of fat in organs that have no room for them—like the pancreas. As a result, the organ dysfunctions and results in impaired glucose control in the blood, high blood cholesterol and insulin resistance.
In a Korean study, it was found that the chances of cancers, such as those of the colon and rectum are more prevalent in women with higher waist circumference. Other cancers are also higher in such women, including breast cancer. In comparison to women with normal waist circumference, those with waists nearly as big as their hips, were three to four times more likely to get diagnosed with breast cancer.
This is supported by the fact that reduction in waist circumference is linked with a decreased risk of breast cancer. In a Dutch study, it was concluded that when women lost an average of 12 pounds, the biomarkers for breast cancer—such as leptin, inflammatory protein and estrogen—also decreased. This clearly proves that a higher waist circumference is associated with higher inflammatory markers and cancer risk.
The risk of colorectal cancer is also very high in women with a bigger waistline. This chance increases further in women of postmenopausal phase.
- Premature death
According to a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, the risk of dying prematurely is linked to excessive body fat. In fact, this study found that in about 350,000 European men and women, the risk of premature death was nearly doubled due to higher abdominal fat, even if their overall body weight was within normal range.
A study with over 6500 members found that people with higher amounts of abdominal obesity in their midlife were three times more likely to develop dementia later on in life. In general, women with higher abdominal mass, even if they were in the normal weight range, had a higher risk. This risk remained high even in the absence of comorbidities like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
Along with these problems, excess abdominal fat has also been associated with low fertility and poor mental and sexual health. In case, your abdominal fat is damaging your sexual health or reproductive capability, you should consult with a competent doctor. One such specialist is doctor samra amin who practices in Lahore and can be very helpful in this regard.
What to do about excess abdominal fat?
The worst offender that causes increase in belly fat includes sugar, especially fructose syrups that are found in plenty of processed foods and desserts. For reduced belly fat, it is best to minimize the intake of sugar, and refined foods. Instead of these empty calories, proteins and lean mean should be consumed, as should vegetables and fruits.
Dietary fiber, including whole grains, peas and beans are better for health, than say, white bread or refined flour. Moreover, whole grains and dietary fiber can help keep cholesterol in check, while curbing hunger and keeping the belly full.
Exercise and staying active are equally important for shredding the belly fat. The good news is that visceral fat is the first type of fat to go when one embarks on the weight loss journey. Yoga and mindful meditation are also helpful in reducing belly fat, because they help combat the stress hormone cortisol, which has been found to have a role in deposition of visceral fat.
In case, when these tips are unable to help you lose abdominal fat then you might have to visit a hospital where there are multiple relevant specialists such as nutritionists, gastroenterologists and psychologists practicing on the panel and can thus help you out. Evercare hospital is one such facility.