When it comes to carrying excess weight, less is definitely more – for your appearance and your health.
But one type of fat is specifically undesirable. Not because it’s particularly ugly, but because it’s extremely damaging to your health.
We’re talking about abdominal fat – the fat that gathers around your internal organs when you’re overweight.
Most dieters are more concerned about flabby love handles and an unshapely physique, but it’s abdominal fat that particularly worries doctors.
That’s because abdominal fat isn’t just stored energy. It’s actually metabolically active. That means it secretes hormones, proteins and other chemicals that are linked to serious health problems.
The most obvious and immediate problem is insulin sensitivity. Insulin is incredibly important for bodily functions like the creation of energy from food. It also helps to regulate blood sugar, stopping it from getting too high or too low.
When you’re storing large amounts of abdominal fat, your body becomes resistant to insulin. You need more and more insulin to perform the same functions. The pancreas responds by creating insulin at a massive speed and in huge quantities. Unfortunately this is often the first step to type 2 diabetes.
Insulin resistance syndrome is also associated with high blood pressure, which can cause strokes, and bad cholesterol, which can cause heart disease.
Sadly, the dangers of abdominal fat don’t stop there. This kind of fat has also been linked to many other serious illnesses, including cancer and dementia.
A clinical study conducted at Michigan State University found abdominal fat releases a protein that can turn normal cells into cancerous cells. The link between obesity and cancer is well known, but this is the first time scientists have actually proven that abdominal fat in particular can raise the risk of cancer and accelerate the growth of cancerous tumors that are already present.
These findings were echoed by a study in Korea, which found that the risk of getting colorectal cancer doubles for women with large amounts of abdominal fat. This study is particularly concerning for women approaching menopause. The menopause years are when fat distribution shifts from the lower body to the abdomen in females.
Scientists at Ireland’s Trinity College Dublin have also investigated abdominal fat. They found a large amount of abdominal fat is linked with cognitive decline in older adults. Test subjects with excessive abdominal fat performed so badly in cognitive tests that scientists were concerned it could be an early indication of dementia.
If you're a woman with a waist circumference over 35 inches, or a man with a waist circumference over 40 inches, unfortunately you’re in the danger zone.
Remember that your waist circumference isn’t the same as your pants size. Most pants actually measure several inches larger than the stated size. Even if you wear 36” jeans, you could still be very much at risk.
And of course, simply measuring your waist isn’t an exact science. Even if your waist size is less than the sizes above, you may still be carrying too much abdominal fat.
So if you have too much abdominal fat, how can you get rid of it?
The first thing to note is that abdominal exercises are almost worthless for fat loss. You could do thousands of crunches and still have way too much abdominal fat. The only way to truly cut down on your abdominal fat is to lose a significant amount of weight with diet and exercise.
Sugar and junk food is often a huge culprit. You can often make significant progress simply by eliminating them from your diet, along with simple carbs like bread and white rice.
You should also move more. A recent study conducted in the Netherlands found that both exercise and dieting melted much more abdominal fat than dieting alone.
The health effects of excess abdominal fat are certainly scary, but here’s one reason to be optimistic. When you lose weight, your body will make your excess abdominal fat a priority. That means if you can lose 5% to 10% of your overall body weight, you could cut your dangerous abdominal fat by 30% or more.
That’s why you owe it to yourself to take steps towards weight loss today.
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