By anguillian February 17, 2012 09:37


Obesity is reaching epidemic levels in most countries includingAnguilla. The consequences of obesity are varied and serious. Some are even life threatening. Most experts now agree that new and bold strategies are needed to address the obesity problem. Much research is continuing on understanding obesity, and we now know that there are different kinds of fat in the body – and depending on its location can have differing effects. An increasing acceptance of the importance of belly fat (central obesity) within the medical profession, as an indicator of health risk, has led to new developments in obesity.


Excess abdominal (belly) fat

Excess abdominal fat, colloquially known as belly fat or clinically as central obesity, is the accumulation of abdominal fat resulting in an increase in waist size. This fat is not to be confused with oedema of the abdomen or bloating of the abdomen. We now know that excess accumulation of belly fat is more dangerous than excess fat around your hips and thighs. Belly fat is associated with serious health problems such as heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. Your genes can contribute to your being overweight and help determine where you carry this extra fat, but poor lifestyle choices are likely to worsen the issue.

Many people feel that only fatty foods cause excess fat in the abdomen, but this is not true. Eating high-fat foods is not helpful, but excess calories of any kind can increase your waistline and contribute to belly fat. Still, there is no single cause of belly fat. Genetics, diet, age and lifestyle can all play a role. Changing dietary habits can help you fight the battle of the bulge and fight belly fat: read labels, reduce saturated fats, and increase the amount of fruits and vegetables you eat, and control and reduce your portions.


How can you tell if you have too much belly fat?

Your waist size is a good indicator of whether you have too much belly fat. Although measurements that compare your hip and waist circumference (waist-to-hip ratio) or compare your height and weight (body mass index) are more precise, your waist size alone can give you a good estimate. For most men, the risk factors for heart disease and other diseases increase with a waist size greater than 40 inches (102 centimeters), and for women a waist size greater than 35 inches (88 centimeters).


Alcohol and belly fat

Excess belly fat is usually associated with men, but it can also occur in women who abuse alcohol. Excess calories — whether from alcohol, sweetened beverages, or oversized portions of food — can increase belly fat. Our bodies need calories yet, gram for gram, alcohol has almost as many calories as fat.


Alcohol does seem to have a particular association with an increased waistline, though. In general, that’s because when you drink alcohol, your liver is too busy burning off alcohol to burn off fat, leaving you with a beer belly. Studies show that alcohol can cause you to feel hungry by affecting hormones that regulate a sense of satiety.


Can you really get a beer belly from drinking?

Drinking excess alcohol can cause you to gain belly fat — the “beer belly.” However, beer alone is not to blame. Drinking too much alcohol of any kind can increase belly fat, although some research suggests wine may be an exception. If you drink alcohol, do so only in moderation. The less you drink the fewer calories you will consume and the less likely you will be to gain belly fat.


Trans fats

Researchers atWakeForestUniversityin theUSAfound that trans fats, which are created by partially hydrogenated oil, increase the amount of fat around the belly and redistribute fat tissue to the abdomen from other parts of the body. Trans fats may be found in such foods as margarine, pastries, cookies and crackers, and fried and convenience foods. It is therefore important to avoid foods with lots of trans fats or use them in moderation.


Fast foods

Many fast food options are typically high-fat, calorie-dense foods that are eaten in large portions — all of which contribute to over-consumption of calories, weight gain, and an increase in belly fat when eaten frequently. Many fast food restaurants do not provide nutritional information, but it is important to make good food choices if you do need to eat at fast food outlets.


Sex differences

Overall, men tend to store fat in the abdominal area more than women do, thanks to sex hormone differences. Before age 40, women tend to store most of their fat in the hips, thighs and buttocks. After 40, as estrogen levels drop, body fat is redistributed to the abdomen.


Loosing belly fat

When you lose weight, you are much more likely to lose it in your midsection. Losing weight on a well-balanced plan will melt body fat, including belly fat. The best way to decrease your waist size is through healthy eating and regular exercise.


Doing sit-ups, crunches, or other abdominal exercises, will strengthen your core muscles and help you lose fat, but they don’t specifically work on belly fat. In other words, spot exercise won’t decrease belly fat. The only way to lose belly fat (or any kind of fat) is through dieting and exercise. Aerobic exercises, such as running, swimming, cycling and tennis, are some of the best to help reduce body fat.


Most scientific evidence suggests that a calorie-controlled diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, beans, nuts, seeds, lean meat, fish, eggs, and poultry, is the foundation for a diet that provides all the nutrients you need while helping to whittle your waistline. Weight loss experts recommend combining this diet with 30 to 60 minutes of exercise most days of the week.


Green tea, in combination with exercise, could help you lose weight, according to the Journal of Nutrition. Researchers think substances in green tea known as catechins stimulate the body to burn calories and enhance loss of belly fat. Blueberries also show promise, albeit in rodents. In one study, rats bred to become obese were fed either a high-fat diet or a low-fat diet rich in blueberries. Rats fed a blueberry-rich diet had less abdominal fat.


Other foods

To trim your waistline, add whole grains to your diet. For example, choose brown or wild rice instead of white rice. Refined and other highly processed foods can contribute to weight gain and interfere with weight loss. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that a calorie-controlled diet rich in whole grains can trim extra fat from the waistline of obese subjects.


Belly Fat and other health disorders

Belly fat appears to be especially bad for the heart. Studies have linked belly fat to heart failure, atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular problems. It also has been associated with osteoporosis, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, colorectal cancer, metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure and other health problems.



Belly fat is nothing to joke about. People who gain belly fat are at greater risk of serious health problems, even death, than are people who accumulate fat in other areas. If you do not have belly fat continue to eat healthy foods and exercise regularly. If you have belly fat the best way to shrink your waist size is to lower your total body fat through healthy eating and regular physical activity.


Remember, you can lose belly fat — it just takes patience and effort. In fact, shedding even a few extra pounds can help you feel better and lower your risk of health problems.


Ask Your Doctor is a health education column and is not a substitute for medical advice from your physician. Dr Brett Hodge is an Obstetrician/Gynaecologist and Family Doctor who has over twenty eight years in clinical practice. Dr Hodge has a medical practice in theJohnsonBuildingin The Valley.


By anguillian February 17, 2012 09:37
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