TUFTS UNIVERSITY: MEASURING THE CONSEQUENCES OF BELLY FAT

It’s not only subcutaneous fat (under the skin) sported by pot bellies and muffin tops that endanger our health.  Both visceral fat (surrounding internal organs) and retroperitoneal fat (behind the peritoneum) can do us in just as handily as can subcutaneous fat.

As a matter of ugly fact/fat, researchers studying 15,156 participants, ages 45-64, in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study found that excess belly fat carried a 40% greater risk of dying–within an hour from the unset of sudden heart problems.

Among the three measures of obesity–BMI, waist-to-hip ratio, waist size–scientists found only waist-to-hip was a significant predictor of cardio risk.  Women whose waist-divided-by-hip ratio was 0.97 or greater and men whose ratio was 1.01 or higher were in the top 20% for risk.

Visceral belly fat is especially dangerous because its effects on inflammation can lead to fibrosis in the heart muscle.

A report published in Circulation determined that among 44,636 women studied, those with a waistline of 35 inches or more doubled their risk of dying from heart disease or stroke.  Women with the largest waists were 63% more likely to develop cancer than was the trimmest group and had an overall 79% greater relative risk of death from all causes.

A study published in Neurology linked belly fat to increased risk of developing dementia.  After researchers tracked the health of 6,853 subjects, age 40 to 45 for 36 years, they found that nearly 16% of the participants developed Alzheimer’s disease or some other form of dementia by their 70s.  Those with the biggest bellies in middle age were almost three times as likely to develop dementia as were the 20% in the group with the trimmest tummies.

The magic or tragic number for a woman’s waist is 35”, 40” for men.  At those respective numbers and higher, visceral fat begins to accumulate around the heart, liver and other internal organs and serves as a gateway to pre-diabetes, high cholesterol levels and high triglyceride counts.

What to do?  In a study conducted by P K Newby of Tufts’ Friedman School ,m he and his colleagues were among the first to discover a correlation between white bread and refined grains and belly fat.

They also found that study participants with the smallest increase in waist measurements consumed the most carbohydrates.  Those individuals, both men and women,  were eating carbs rich in fiber—fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

My Take on the research:  You’re off to a good start if you’re reading labels and have discovered that Wheat Bread has no whole wheat grains in it and that much of the Rye or Jewish Rye Bread sold in our stores, even baked in our stores, has no rye flour in it.

Still, I advise everyone to keep a loaf of white bread in the pantry at all times.

You never can tell when your unwashable wall paper may get smudged, in which case you can simply ball up a couple slices of white bread and rub it on the smudge till it disappears.

Balled-up white bread’s also useful should you shatter a glass and need to pick up the tiny shards from the counter or floor.

But under no circumstances should you take white bread internally.

From Tufts University Health & Nutrition Update,   May 18, 2012  Study published in Heart Rhythm Society.   Also from Tuft’s report, Gut-Check Time:  Why Belly Fat Poses Extra Risks, July 2008

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