Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : November 13th 2015 Contents A28
body & soul
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Friday, November 13, 2015
Going to your doctor may soon look more like
going to your tailor. Instead of starting with a request
to step on a scale, he or she may measure your
That s because a new study concludes that excess
belly fat, even if you are skinny everywhere else, may
be even more deadly than being obese or overweight.
And that s saying something when you know that
being obese already increases your likelihood of having
a heart attack, a stroke, diabetes or even cancer.
In other words, your beer belly may be killing you.
As of now, the guidelines to manage obesity tell your
doctor to look at your body mass index, the measure
of body fat using a calculation based on your height
and weight. It is possible to have a "healthy" BMI
and a slim butt, arms and legs. But if your pants are
hard to button, and your low-riders make a muffin
top, you should still watch your weight.
"I hear from some of my patients who have a
normal BMI. They ask me, Why do I have to exercise
if my BMI is normal? I m not fat. I should be able
to eat whatever I want, " said co-author Dr Francisco
Lopez-Jimenez. Lopez-Jimenez works as a doctor in
the division of cardiology at the Mayo Clinic in Min-
nesota. What this latest study shows is that his patients
with paunches should be eating their broccoli and
increasing their time on the treadmill.
This study appears in the latest edition of Annals
of Internal Medicine. After looking at data from over
15,000 people, researchers estimate that men with
pot bellies have twice the mortality risk of people
who are just overweight or obese. Women with a
similar fat distribution had 1.5 times the risk for death.
"Keep in mind this doesn t give people license to
eat anything they want to even out their fat," Lopez-
Jimenez said. "I ve gotten a few of those notes that
say that is what some people plan to do. I hope they
are joking." Earlier studies showed that people with
a large waist-to-hip ratio face a greater risk of diabetes,
stroke, coronary heart disease and other cardiac prob-
lems. This is the first study to quantify the risk of
What makes belly fat so deadly? Part of it may be
that unlike your love handles---which are pinchable
fat right beneath your skin ---the kind of fat that likes
to hang out in your stomach area goes deep inside
your body and wraps around your vital organs. Your
liver can act a bit greedy and it borrows this fat to
turn it into cholesterol that can slip into your blood-
stream and start collecting along your arteries. Too
much cholesterol, and the arteries start to harden---
and that can lead you down the path to heart attack
or stroke. This deep layer of fat is to blame for your
body becoming insulin-resistant. That can turn into
Type 2 diabetes and it can also cause inflammation
that may be at the root of a number of chronic
diseases. This kind of fat can raise your glucose levels
and decrease your muscle mass. That last one may
be particularly damaging as muscle seems to be a
good protector of your heart health.
To fix it: Diet, exercise and calm
If you want to do something to flatten that tummy,
you are in luck.
Having a dangerous waist-to-hip ratio is not a
permanent condition. Lopez-Jimenez said researchers
really don t have strong evidence yet on what exactly
reduces fat in this area, but the advice he gives his
patients is solid. A healthy diet, like the Mediterranean
diet, is a good way to go. That means you avoid
processed food, eat meat sparingly, and above all, eat
more plants, whole grains and nuts. On this diet you
can even have a daily glass of wine.
Diet alone doesn t do it, though. If you want to
burn off this kind of fat you need regular cardio.
Walking for 50 minutes three times a week or 30
minutes six days a week should work, according to
earlier studies. What may be even more useful is to
add some kind of resistance or weight training to
your routine, "anything that will help you improve
your muscle mass, and not just for aesthetic reasons,"
said Lopez-Jimenez. "We are starting to think muscle
Your beer belly may kill you
mass may have some protective effects to prevent
heart attacks and diabetes." Stress reduction may also
be a big help. Earlier studies showed people who are
regularly stressed out tend to have a disproportionate
amount of belly fat.
You probably can t quit your job any time soon,
so practise deep breathing or try an active form of
relaxation such as yoga. Combine these three---diet,
exercise and calm---and your beer belly doesn t have
to hurt you half as much. (CNN)
YOUR DAILY HEALTH
News and advice
even if you
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