TweetBelly Fat may be more dangerous than you can imagine, even if you are a person with normal weight. People who have a normal weight but have excess belly fat face a higher risk at dying from heart disease than people who are obese, a study from the Mayo Clinic reveals.
Why is Belly Fat so bad?
The study analyzed that individuals who had a normal body-mass index but also had central obesity (a high waist-to-hip ratio) had the greatest cardiovascular death risk from all causes. Throughout all the years of research and studies I have encountered, I would have never thought that a person of normal weight with belly fat would be at a higher risk of death than an obese person.
"We knew from previous research that central obesity is bad, but what is new in this research is that the distribution of the fat is very important even in people with a normal weight," says senior author Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, M.D., a cardiologist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. "This group has the highest death rate, even higher than those who are considered obese based on body mass index. From a public health perspective, this is a significant finding."
I always thought that the skinny or normal weight guys with the beer bellies were okay since they didn’t have fat all over but this current research has definitely changed my perspective. According to Lopez-Jimenez, central obesity increases insulin resistance and people tend to have less fat in areas where fat may be protective, such as the legs and hips. Individuals that have central obesity also tend to have much less muscle mass.
Lopez noted that some of the risk is tempered or lessened by fat distribution for obese people. People who are obese usually have fat in those places where it may be protected, and they seem to have more muscle mass, he says.
The study contained more than 12,000 people 18 and older from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which is a representative sample of the U.S. population. The survey recorded body measurements such as height, weight, waist circumference and hip circumference, as well as socioeconomic status, comorbidities, and physiological and laboratory measurements. Baseline data were matched to the National Death Index to assess deaths at follow-up.
People with cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease were excluded by researchers to make sure their results reflected body type. Adjustments for age, sex, race, smoking, diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia and baseline body mass index were analyzed as well.
The results concluded that the risk of cardiovascular death was about three times higher, and the risk of death from all causes was two times higher, in the individuals of normal weight with central obesity, compared with those with a normal body mass index (BMI) and waist-to-hip ratio.
The only way to reduce the risk for normal weight people is to lose weight and build muscle mass, says Lopez-Jimenez, so that the weight is redistributed. Exercise and a healthy diet is the proper way to treat this problem because you lose weight and build muscle mass at the same time.
Many individuals know their body mass index these days; it’s also vital for them to know that a normal BMI doesn’t mean their risk for heart disease is low, concludes Dr. Lopez-Jimenez. Where the fat is distributed on their body is important, and it can be determined easily by getting a waist-to-hip measurement, even if their body weight is within normal limits, says Lopez-Jimenez. To be on the safe side you should always engage in a proper diet and exercise for at least thirty minutes a day. This will limit all health risks, improve your physique and make you feel great about yourself.
Sources: Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, M.D., cardiologist, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.; Gregg Fonarow, M.D., spokesman, American Heart Association, and professor, cardiology, University of California, Los Angeles; Aug. 27, 2012, presentation, European Society of Cardiology Congress, Munich, Germany. Health