Posted on Mar 04, 2019, 6 p.m.
Excess fat around the midsection is dangerous to the heart, and is more harmful to the heart than extra padding around the hips and thighs. Growing numbers of Americans now have what experts warn is an unhealthy apple shaped profile, according to stats from the CDC.
Men’s average waist circumference is now up to 40.2 inches, increasing from 39 inches recorded in the last survey in 2000. Women’s average waist circumference also increased to 38.6 inches from 36.3 inches; meaning the majority of Americans now have a belly that puts them at higher health risks.
“As waistlines expand so does the risk for cardiovascular disease, as belly fat is visceral fat which is different from fat that accumulates in the hips/thighs,” according to Dr. Osama Hamdy of the Joslin Diabetes Center, “Some people are predisposed to larger midsections, but there is much you can do to remedy this problem.”
Visceral fat will accumulate within the abdominal cavity collecting/padding the space between organs, when these fats cells break down they shower the portal vein with free fatty acids and other substances, resulting in lipotoxicity affecting nearby organs such as the pancreas and hampers its ability to produce insulin. Lipotoxicity promotes insulin resistance which makes muscle and liver cells respond inadequately to normal levels of insulin, making blood sugar levels rise, which increases the risk for type 2 diabetes. When these fat cells die, cells serving as cleanup crews release inflammatory cytokines linked to atherosclerosis and CVD.
Level of physical activity, diet, genes, ethnic background, age, and sex influence how likely one is to accumulate harmful visceral fat. Native Americans, Pima Indians, Hispanics, and those living in India and South Asia have higher likelihood of abdominal fat; and white men and black women tend to accumulate more visceral fat.
Although there is no magic formula for losing belly fat reducing carbohydrates can help. There is no need to avoid all carbs, rather stay away from those that quickly spike blood sugar levels and encourage the body to store fat which typically fall into 3 major culprit sources: 1) starchy foods; 2) white flour; and 3) Added sugars/sweeteners.
Time restricting food intake/intermittent fasting may also help improve the body’s response to insulin and help to reduce visceral fat. This is not starving yourself, rather limiting the time of day in which you can eat such as only eating starting from 8AM and having the last meal at 8PM, being sure not to eat anything else until the next morning. This would be done at least 3 days per week, then returning to normal eating patterns the remaining days.
Healthier eating habits combined with better active lifestyle choices including aerobic and resistance/strength training will go a long way to helping the body to burn extra calories rather than storing them, and will help to preserve and tone lean muscle mass, while promoting burning that harmful visceral fat.
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