A Reminder that Excess Visceral Fat is Harmful

This popular science article takes a high level look at the vast array of research data showing that excess visceral fat causes great harm to long term health. One of the more important mediating mechanisms is an increase in chronic inflammation, a state of dysfunction in the operation of the immune system that disrupts organ function and tissue maintenance, and accelerates the development of all of the common age-related diseases. There are numerous other connections between the pace of aging and the activities of visceral fat tissue, however. Becoming overweight is the path to a shorter life expectancy, greater incidence of age-related disease, and higher lifetime medical expenditures.

In general, if your waist measures 35 or more inches for women or 40 or more inches for men, chances are you're harboring a potentially dangerous amount of abdominal fat. Subcutaneous fat that lurks beneath the skin may be cosmetically challenging, but it is otherwise harmless. However, the deeper belly fat - the visceral fat that accumulates around abdominal organs - is metabolically active and has been strongly linked to a host of serious disease risks, including heart disease, cancer, and dementia. Weight loss through a wholesome diet and exercise - activities like walking and strength-training - is the only surefire way to get rid of it.

Unlike the cells in subcutaneous fat, visceral fat is essentially an endocrine organ that secretes hormones and a host of other chemicals linked to diseases that commonly afflict older adults. One such substance is called retinol-binding protein 4 (RBP4) that was found in a 16-year study of nurses to increase the risk of developing coronary heart disease. This hazard most likely results from the harmful effects of this protein on insulin resistance, the precursor to type 2 diabetes, and development of metabolic syndrome, a complex of cardiac risk factors.

The Million Women Study conducted in Britain demonstrated a direct link between the development of coronary heart disease and an increase in waist circumference over a 20-year period. Even when other coronary risk factors were taken into account, the chances of developing heart disease were doubled among the women with the largest waists. Every additional two inches in the women's waist size raised their risk by 10 percent.

Cancer risk is also raised by belly fat. The chances of getting colorectal cancer were nearly doubled among postmenopausal women who accumulate visceral fat, a Korean study found. A Dutch study published last year linked both total body fat and abdominal fat to a raised risk of breast cancer. When the women in the study lost weight - about 12 pounds on average - changes in biomarkers for breast cancer, like estrogen, leptinm and inflammatory proteins, indicated a reduction in breast cancer risk.

Perhaps most important with regard to the toll on individuals, families and the health care system is the link between abdominal obesity and risk of developing dementia decades later. A study of 6,583 individuals in Northern California who were followed for an average of 36 years found that those with the greatest amount of abdominal obesity in midlife were nearly three times more likely to develop dementia three decades later than those with the least abdominal fat.

Over all, according to findings among more than 350,000 European men and women published in The New England Journal of Medicine, having a large waist can nearly double one's risk of dying prematurely even if overall body weight is normal.

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/11/well/live/belly-fat-health-visceral-fat-waist-cancer.html


The weight of the fat is also structurally damaging to the back, knees, hips. Having been to Eastern Europe, where there is less than half the fatties in the US, I enjoy the appearance of lean, well dressed women also.

Posted by: Tom Schaefer at June 13th, 2018 8:47 AM

People with excess fat should get a Fitbit watch and do a minimum of 10000 steps/day. I average over 12K steps/day and I am 77, with a BMI of 21 and waist of 32.

Posted by: Biotechy Marcks at June 13th, 2018 10:18 AM

People with excess fat could also try eating less and exercising more!

Posted by: Steven B at June 13th, 2018 12:04 PM

@Tom Schaefer, I could not agree with you more on eastern Europe. I have been to Ukraine and Russian from 2000 to 2008, 3 times per year, 3 weeks at a time and yes, they are mostly trim (they walk alot, most don't have cars and far less fast food plus can't afford eating out anyways) and dress very classy. I married my woman from Russia in 2008 and though in U.S. since, still trim. She even exercises with me.

We are working on building a gym on our land near Santa Cruz.

I still believe that minimally, most everyone can walk, young or old. A pair of simple shoes and walk for an hour or so per day. But, tell that to lazy Americans.

Posted by: Robert at June 13th, 2018 12:18 PM

Again, if we look at William Shatner whom is almost mid 80's now. He appears to look youthful, vibrant and especially cognitive for his age. He isn't someone you would consider "skinny" either. Is he the exception?

Posted by: Person at June 13th, 2018 1:43 PM

There are always exceptions to every rule... But Shatner whilst never 'skinny' has never been 'obese' to my eyes.

Posted by: Steven B at June 13th, 2018 2:11 PM

"But Shatner whilst never 'skinny' has never been 'obese' to my eyes."

To my eyes (at least in older pics) his gut had expanded to where no gut had gone before:


Posted by: John S. at June 13th, 2018 5:04 PM

@John S, hey be nice, captain Kirk is my hero. He is an trim as Trump. And, Trump does not like overweight people.

Posted by: Robert at June 13th, 2018 8:22 PM

"@John S, hey be nice, captain Kirk is my hero. He is an trim as Trump. And, Trump does not like overweight people."

Actually Cap'n Kirk has done well to 'live long and prosper' to the age of 87 in spite of his weight issues.
Same age as Warren Buffett who apparently has lived on a diet of almost pure sugar - outlived plenty of salad-munching nutritionists!

Posted by: John S. at June 14th, 2018 2:56 AM

And not forgetting Bruce Lee who sadly died at just 32. In amazing shape wks before he died.

Posted by: Steven B at June 14th, 2018 3:26 AM

Bruce Lee died of a meprobamate allergy

Posted by: Ira S. Pastor at June 14th, 2018 6:06 AM

I'm a massive Bruce Lee fan so I know the circumstances of his death... It just shows the lottery that is human existence when Shatner and Buffett can live so long, yet a physically perfect specimen like Bruce can be taken down by an allergic reaction. That was my point!

Posted by: Steven B at June 14th, 2018 7:03 AM
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