Around our midsections, there are two different kinds of fat: subcutaneous and visceral.
Subcutaneous – It means under the skin. It is the fat we can see and pinch. But, surprisingly, we need to worry less about subcutaneous fat than we do the visceral stuff. It is often described as a “passive” fat because it functions primarily as a storage repository.
Visceral – It means pertaining to the soft organs in the abdomen. It is the fat stored deep in our abdomens around the intestines, kidneys, pancreas and liver. This is the stuff that tends to make our tummies protrude in classic “beer belly” fashion. In contrast, visceral fat is considered very “active” because it functions much like a gland itself. It is programmed to break down and release fatty acids and other hormonal substances that are then directly metabolized by the liver. The fatty acids so produced go directly to the liver and produce an unfavorable metabolic environment.
Though located in our abdomens, it can wreak all sorts of damage that goes far beyond our bellies. No other fat in the body does that.
Sex differences –
There are sex-dependent differences in regional fat distribution.
• Women genetically have more capacity to store fat than men do.
• Men are more susceptible to upper-body fat accumulation, most likely in the belly, due to sex hormone differences. Abdominal obesity in men is correlated with comparatively low testosterone levels.
• In women, estrogen is believed to cause fat to be stored in the buttocks, thighs, and hips. After menopause in women, the estrogen produced by ovaries declines. And fat migrates from their buttocks, hips’ and thighs to their belly.
• Women with higher-than-average levels of testosterone, as well as women with certain medical conditions that cause them to have lower levels of estrogen, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome, are also more likely to develop a potbelly than women with typical estrogen levels
• When comparing the body fat of men and women, it is seen that men have close to twice the visceral fat as that of pre-menopausal women.
Measurements of belly fat –
For women, a waist measurement of 35 inches or more is cause for concern. For men, a waist measurement of 40 inches or more could spell trouble.
For men, a WHR (waist to hip ratio) of greater than 0.95 and, for women, greater than 0.80 are indicative of central obesity.
Health risks of belly fat –
Belly fat is considered to be a risk for the following conditions:
Cardio-vascular disease – Pot belly is the best indicator for cardio-vascular risk. Researchers have found that those who are not overweight but have a bulging midriff are 2.75 times more at risk of dying from cardio-vascular disease than normal weight and a proportionate waistline.
Stroke – Belly fat hastens the process of atherosclerosis, which means hardening of arteries, making heart attacks and strokes more likely.
Type-2 diabetes – People with large bellies tend to lose sensitivity to insulin, resulting in insulin resistance, which often develops into type-2 diabetes.
High blood pressure – Researchers have found that abdominal obesity leads to increased risk for hypertension.
Dementia – Middle-aged people with high abdominal fat are 3.6 times as likely to suffer from memory loss and dementia later on in life, researchers have discovered at Rush University Medical Centre.
Erectile dysfunction – Belly fat is actually reducing the male’s testosterone levels, which can lead to erectile dysfunction. It also produces an enzyme called aromatase, which converts testosterone to estrogen in a one-way pathway.
Breast cancer – The researchers note in a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute that abdominal fat is associated with pre-diabetes. Insulin receptors are expressed in most breast cancers and have been shown to stimulate the growth of breast cancer cells. This suggests that an insulin-related pathway of abdominal adiposity is involved in the etiology of premenopausal breast cancer.
The crux –
The health experts unequivocally proclaim that pot belly has some very serious health risks. And still most of us ignore their advice. I don’t understand why it is ignored so much. In fact, belly fat functions like a gland, releasing fatty acids and hormonal substances that are detrimental to our health. Regular exercise, consumption of healthy diet and adequate management of stress will go a long way in reducing belly fat