Excess belly fat has been proven worse than obesity, in a recent study published on November 10 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Research was led by Dr. Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Experts reviewed medical data collected during the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, between 1988 and 1994.
15,184 adults aged 18 to 90 were included in a follow-up analysis, conducted 14 years afterwards at mobile examination centers. Experts determined that 3,200 premature death rates had occurred throughout the study period, 1404 of them resulting from cardiovascular disease.
Afterwards, they sought to establish a link between mortality and other factors, such as body mass index (BMI) and waist-to-hip ratios.
It was discovered that the shortest life expectancy was among those who had normal weight, but apple-shaped bodies, with extra belly fat.
In contrast, participants who had a BMI between 25 and 29.9, suggesting they were overweight, and even those whose BMI surpassed 30 (indicating obesity) had a much lower likelihood of dying young. Their average mortality rates were less than half of those experienced by pot-bellied men with average BMIs.
That might be because obese and overweight people sometimes store fat below the waist, in their hips or legs, which makes them less prone to insulin resistance or inflammation.
Abdominal or central obesity, which is considered to occur when waist-hip ratio exceeds 0.9 among males, or 0.85 among females, was the most significant source of premature death.
Also, it appears that excessive stomach fat was particularly damaging among normal weight men, whose death rates were higher than those reported among women with healthy BMIs.
Male participants having a normal weight, but more fat around their waists, were 87% more likely to die than their counterparts who had a smaller waist circumference.
On the other hand, female subjects had a 50% heightened risk of premature death when they had large abdomens, in comparison with women with more evenly distributed weight.
As emphasized by Dr. Paul Poirier, from the Institute of Cardiology at Laval University in Quebec, Canada, stomach fat is especially dangerous, because it usually associated with insulin resistance (causing type 2 diabetes), high levels of cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, stroke and inflammation.
Women with a waistline exceeding 34 inches, and men with waistlines of more than 40 inches actually suffer from abdominal obesity, even though their overall weight might appear to be normal.
While it might seem surprising that some people can have normal BMIs and yet have excessive belly fat, this is actually a more common occurrence than it might seem.
Certain individuals are genetically predisposed to accumulate weight round their middle section, which also causes fat deposits to appear on essential organs, such as the liver, the gastrointestinal tract and the pancreas.
This type of visceral fat is much deadlier than subcutaneous fat, which is the one located just underneath the skin, also because it influences the release of leptin, nicknamed the satiety hormone. When its levels are disrupted, people can no longer curb their hunger, and continue to indulge in excessive eating.
Therefore, researchers now insist that physicians should focus more on waist-to-hip ratios when doing physical examinations, instead of being guided exclusively by other metrics, such as body mass index.
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