Belly fat, a potential ticking time bomb when it comes to health.

While we don't like the look of fat around the abdomen, it is a more serious issue than that.  The fat we carry around our middles is also known as 'toxic waist'.  Most of the excess energy from our diets is stored as fat; basically if we eat it and don't burn it off through a combination of our metabolism and exercise, then we store it.

Initially, the body stores its fat mostly under the skin, in the thighs, buttocks and breasts and in these depots the fat is efficiently and safely impounded until it is needed for energy.  This is known as peripheral fat.  Peripheral fat is not so unhealthy, that is, if you sucked it all out it wouldn't necessarily make you more healthy.  However when these fat storage sites are filled up and there is extra energy coming in, the body has to build additional storage capacity outside of where fat is normally stored.   These fat stores are called ectopic fat and when this fat is stored around internal organs it is known as visceral fat.  Visceral fat is the type of fat that causes us problems.

The easiest way to measure whether you have this kind of fat is to put a tape measure around your waist.  A healthy waist circumference for women is less than 80cm and for men less than 94cm.  Few people with a waist circumference in this range will develop type 2 diabetes.  You are four times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes within the next 5 years if you have a waistline that is greater than 88cm (women) or greater than 102cm (men).

One of the problems with ectopic fat is that it leaches out of the fat cells and into the tissues and blood and these 'free fats' and byproducts are directly toxic in many parts of the body, including cells in the pancreas which are responsible for making insulin.  Ectopic fat also accumulates in the liver, making it unable to work as efficiently.  As your liver is your biggest fat burning organ, as well as being involved in hundreds of vital chemical processes, you do not want to bung it up with fat.  These free fatty acids also increase the production of LDL (bad) cholesterol in the liver and mess around with your glucose levels. 

Excess abdominal fat has been linked to dementia, breast cancer, infertility, heart disease and a lot of unhappiness!   Get that tape measure out now and see where you are.

Posted on November 4, 2013 .