Obesity and the Importance of Fat Distribution
The Importance of Fat Distribution
Where exactly in our body excess fat is stored, has a clear and documented influence on our health. It appears that people with a lot of stomach fat, or love handles, have a significantly higher risk of developing heart conditions and diabetes.
It are mostly men that store extra fat in the abdominal area. Women often store fat on their thighs and behind, which , strangely enough, actually protects them from both heart conditions and diabetes.
Replacing the BMI?
The amount of stomach fat seems to be a good predictor of health, maybe even more so than the well-known body mass index (or BMI).
To elucidate this, consider a man with a beer gut and skinny arms and legs. He will very likely have a pretty normal BMI, but is less healthy than his BMI indicates. So, in fact, he is obese without being obese. Such possibilities are why several specialists are looking to replace the BMI as health indicator. The amount of abdominal fat seems to be better suited as health parameter.
To measure this in a simple way, one simply has to measure the circumference of the waist. Men with a waist circumference of over 102 cm (about 40.15 inches) and women with a circumference of over 88 cm (about 34.65 inches) are running a higher risk of developing heart conditions and diabetes.
Why is Stomach Fat So Bad?
The reason stomach fat is more dangerous than fat from other places, is because it is very dynamic. It accumulates quickly, but it is also reduced to free fatty acids in a rapid pace. Through the bloodstream these fatty acids eventually end up in the liver, where they are recycled to new fats and sugars. Subsequently, the liver releases the fresh fats and sugars back into the bloodstream.
So, the more fatty acids arrive in the liver (thus, the more stomach fat), the more fat and sugar will be released into the blood. The consequence of this is a higher chance for the development of fat plaques in the blood vessels, which can lead to several heart conditions, and a higher sugar production, which will lead to a faster depletion of insulin, and the development of diabetes type II.
- Campos, P.; Saguy, A.; Ernsberger, P.; Oliver, E. & Gaesser, G. (2006). The epidemiology of overweight and obesity: public health crisis or moral panic? International Journal of Epidemiology. 35(1), pp. 55 – 60.
- Janssen, I.; Katzmarzyk, P.T. & Ross, R. (2004). Waist circumference and not body mass index explains obesity-related health risk. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 79(3), pp. 379 – 384.