Understanding Abdominal (Belly) Fat. Use it to Lose it.

Understanding Abdominal (Belly) Fat. Use it to Lose it.

belly fat

By Gary Pepper, M.D. and Sam Jeans, MSc

In my day to day endocrinology practice one of the first complaints I hear from people, no matter what the medical problem, is about weight. Almost always, it is either because they are gaining or unable to lose it. When I began my medical practice 40 years ago, this was also the case. What is it about weight that prevents more progress from being made? Could it be because in nature having adequate amounts of stored fat on the body eg belly fat,  is essential for survival in the same way having gasoline in the fuel tank of a car is needed to keep it going? Not to mention the role of fat as an insulator against the cold. Imagine trying to live through a winter without clothes, the way primitive humans did? Being covered in fat was literally a lifesaver. The more we know about the role of fat (adipose) in our lives the better we are equipped to live with (and without) it.

It’s tempting to think that all fat is built the same, but this is not true.

There are actually three types of fat; white, brown, and beige fat, and they are distributed in different parts of the body in different proportions, as either visceral fat (inside the body and organs) or subcutaneous fat (under the skin).

White fat is the fat most people are familiar with – over 73.2% of all Americans carry too much and are classed as either overweight or obese (CDC, 2017 to 2018). While some white fat is absolutely essential for a healthy metabolism, every body has its limits.

Brown fat is found mainly in babies and plays a key role in providing energy and keeping us warm. Adults retain a small percentage of brown fat around their necks and shoulders.

Beige, or brite fat, is similar to brown fat and is optimized for burning fat rather than storing it, unlike white fat.

As we can see, white fat is the ‘bad stuff,’ and is the type of fat that many of us worry about.

Visceral and Subcutaneous Fat

Fat is distributed as either visceral or subcutaneous fat, and there is a big difference between the two.

Subcutaneous Fat

Subcutaneous fat is stored under the skin in the limbs and extremities; arms, belly, thighs, and buttocks. When you pinch your arm or leg, you’re likely feeling a layer of subcutaneous fat distributed under the skin. Made up of mostly white fat, some subcutaneous fat is essential for hormonal function, as well as keeping warm.

While people with different body compositions will likely carry different percentages of subcutaneous fat, everyone has their limits. Subcutaneous fat is not totally harmless, but it poses fewer risks than visceral fat.

Visceral Fat

Visceral fat is stored primarily around and inside the abdomen. Yes – fat is more than skin deep and is stored inside of us as well as under our skin.

Whilst excess subcutaneous fat is still unhealthy, many recent and reputable studies such as this large-scale meta-analysis of 2.5 million participants suggest that visceral fat poses a much greater health risk than subcutaneous fat.

The increased health risk of visceral fat is linked to its proximity to the vital organs.

The closer fat is to the stomach and abdomen, the greater the chance is that it penetrates under the skin, wrapping itself around the liver, heart, kidneys, pancreas, and other organs. A study conducted by the University of Chicago and published in 2016 also found that visceral fat behaves differently from subcutaneous fat and resists fat burning (lipolysis). This also explains why abdominal fat is seen as ‘stubborn fat’ that is hard to lose.

Around 59% of all US adults were abdominally obese in 2015 to 2016, representing a massive increase from around 47% in 1999 to 2000 (CDC, 2016).

Visceral fat poses a much greater risk than subcutaneous fat in developing in the following conditions:

  • Heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Insulin resistance
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Certain types of cancer, such as stomach cancer, bowel cancer, pancreatic cancer and liver cancer

How to Measure Visceral Fat

Traditionally, BMI (body mass index) has been the go-to yardstick for measuring body fat. Today, many health authorities encourage the use of both BMI and abdominal fat measurements. The measurement of waist circumference is a popular method to assess abdominal fat. It’s possible to have a healthy BMI and high waist measurement, and vice-versa.

This is Harvard Health’s technique for measuring visceral, or abdominal fat:

  • Take your shoes off and stand with your feet together.
  • With a bare stomach, relax and exhale all air from your diaphragm.
  • Use a fabric tape measure to measure your waist circumference at the naval.
  • Record the measurement.
  • Be aware that this measurement is likely not the same as what many consider to be their ‘waist’ measure (i.e. the measurement they use to fit trousers).
MenWomen
Low Risk37 inches and below31.5 inches and below
Medium Risk37.1 to 39.9 inches31.6 to 34.9 inches
High Risk40 inches and above35 inches and above

Does Abdominal or Visceral Fat Increase With Age?

The short answer is yes, it does. The plight of the so-called beer belly or middle-age spread is real!

This study published in the International Journal of Body Composition Research found that visceral fat increased by over 200% in men and 400% in women between the age of 30 and 70.

Why?

As we age, our metabolism changes and slows down, but the ‘middle-age spread’ is also linked to changes in behavior and diet.

We’ve covered these changes in detail here in the article What is Metabolism and How Does it Change With Age?

To briefly summarize, aging reduces our percentage of lean muscle mass, which lowers our metabolic rate. Additionally, whilst it’s perhaps natural to indulge a little more as we get older, it’s easy to eat more and exercise less. That gives your body every excuse to pile on that abdominal fat!

Abdominal Fat and Menopause

Studies have shown that estrogen plays a major role in body fat distribution, hence why women experience a much greater change in visceral fat with age due to menopause accompanied by the loss of estrogen (400% vs 200% in men between the ages of 30 and 70).

“If women gain weight after menopause, it’s more likely to be in their bellies,”Michael Jensen, M.D., professor of medicine at Mayo Clinic.

Multiple studies, including this one published in the Journal of Menopausal Medicine, have also found that estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) can mitigate some of this weight gain. However, estrogen replacement is not without its risks and is unsuitable for many.

Namely, ERT can increase the risk of blood clots leading to strokes and embolisms and cause headaches, swelling, or edema. ERT is also often linked to an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer. It is worth mentioning however, studies reviewed by Breastcancer.org show that the risk is only significant after using ERT 10 years or more (in the case of estrogen-only therapy). Combination HRT which includes both estrogen and progesterone poses a much greater risk.

As such, ERT is certainly not a ‘silver bullet’ for treating menopause-related abdominal weight gain.

Part 2 of this article will be published in 2 weeks at this website www.metabolism.com

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The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

Dael Challenges the Conventional Wisdom about Smoking and Weight Control

Dael is taking a lonely path as a confirmed smoker. So far the benefits seem to out weigh the risks, but we all know what the end of this road will look like. I am posting Dael’s comments to see if the community at metabolism.com can make a positive impact on Dael’s rebellious attitude.

Dael writes:

hey guys and gals just to let you know,

am down to 130lbs and feeling fit as a fiddle. have the 6 pack and abs i dreamed of and am fitter than i have ever been.. it really is odd cos i hate smoking but here i am having lost 42 lbs and loving every second of it apart from the smoking. what can i say – maybe rather die skinny and liking myself, than a fatty with some self righteous notion of how wonderful i am for not smoking… i hated myself with the extra weight, sorry but true…. i really can’t give a f***k for what anyone thinks on here but at least i can bear to look at myself in a mirror and like what i see, not loathe what i look like and try to bullshit myself into believing that i am sooooo happy cos i gave up the cigs….. but next is the NRT – lets see what happens there, and b4 anyone says it, yes i lost two of my best friends to cancer, of the spine and brain, but all i can say is like james dean , i’d rather live fast and furious, that be fat and dumb til 101, you can all choose, but in the end what do you all want?
i do not advocate smoking !!!

I know who i am

Spirulina and other Green Superfoods Can Jumpstart Good Health by Tom Hines

Metabolism.com is pleased to share the following article provided by our guest contributor, Tom Hines.
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In some ways, your body is like a machine — it works best when it’s properly maintained and tuned up. Food is your fuel and when you fill your tank with lousy fuel, your engine sputters and stalls. If your body’s engine is sluggish and needs a jumpstart, spirulina and other green superfoods can help deliver the energy necessary to keep the machine running smoothly, avoiding a breakdown.

Spirulina is a ‘green superfood,’ a term used to describe various nutrient-rich natural supplements, which include Chlorella, Wheat Grass, Barley Grass, Alfalfa and Kelp. Unlike most store-bought supplements, the concentrated vitamins and minerals they provide are not synthetic. Green superfoods are whole foods harvested directly from nature and are exactly what your body needs to offset stress and to clear away toxins.

SAD is very sad indeed

S.A.D. stands for Standard American Diet – there was never a more apt acronym. The majority of U.S. citizens today subsist on processed fast food laden with refined carbohydrates and saturated fats. Meats are frequently tainted with growth hormones, antibiotics and pathogens. For people who manage to work the recommended five to nine daily servings of fruit and vegetables into their diet, modern agricultural techniques have stripped crops of many vitamins and minerals.

Processed and cooked foods, which are the cornerstones of the S.A.D, and beverages such as coffee, tea, soft drinks and alcohol create an acidic blood pH, encouraging the growth of bacteria, fungus and mold. In an overly acidic environment, the body literally begins to compost. Illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes are often the result of the composting process. Green superfoods have an alkalizing effect, counteracting the acidity caused by poor diet, stress and toxic overload and setting the stage for a return to good health.

Spirulina and Chlorella, the most super of the green superfoods

Spirulina is a blue-green algae whose name comes from its spiral coil shape. High quality spirulina thrives in both salt and fresh water in tropical climates and it is known to have nourished the Aztecs, who harvested the algae from Lake Texcoco. Some of the benefits of Spirulina are:

  • Contains all of the essential amino acids vital to human health
  • An excellent protein source for all vegetarians, including vegans
  • Balances blood sugar by boosting glycogen, which offsets insulin
  • Rich in GLA (gamma linolenic acid) and other essential fatty acids Delivers an array of vitamins, including the all-important folic acid
  • High in potassium and a dozen other minerals
  • Improves focus and mental clarity

Chlorella is a single-celled green algae whose name is derived from Greek and Latin words that translate to “little green.” In the 1940’s and 1950’s, intensive research was done on little green algae’s potential role in solving world hunger, due to its high protein content and its bounty of beneficial vitamins and minerals. The natural health community, meanwhile, has always touted Chlorella’s health-imparting properties, particularly in the area of detoxification. In addition to being the very best source of chlorophyll, here are some more of Chlorella supplement benefits:

  • Rids the body of toxins and stored waste
  • Tones and cleanses the blood
  • Reduces body odor, acting as an internal deodorant
  • Improves bowel health and reduces flatulence
  • Naturally freshens the breath
  • Clears the skin

Cereal grasses and seaweed

Wheat grass is a popular juicing ingredient due to its superior nutrition, which it delivers without raising blood sugar. It also helps to lower blood pressure.

Barley grass alkalizes the blood and strengthens the digestive system.

Alfalfa helps reduce LDL (low-density lipoprotein) or bad cholesterol, without affecting levels of HDL (high-density lipoprotein) or good cholesterol and studies are underway to determine its effectiveness at lowering blood sugar levels and its ability to invigorate the immune system.

Kelp is a brown-algae seaweed, which grows in abundant kelp forests in shallow oceans all around the world. Kelp is rich in iodine and therefore beneficial to overall thyroid health. Its high vitamin and mineral content promotes pituitary and adrenal gland health as well. It’s renowned for its contribution to lustrous hair and skin. Taken shortly after exposure, it can also mitigate the negative ramifications of heavy metals and irradiation.

Making the most of green superfoods

Incorporating Spirulina, Chlorella and other green superfoods into the diet is easy, since they are all available in powdered form. Simply mix the desired amount into salad dressing, or add it to soup, juice or water. The taste is fresh and green and the active enzymes of living food add a healthy dimension even to a less than healthy meal. Of course, pregnant or breastfeeding women and people taking medications should consult with their doctors before incorporating any new food into their diets.

Many people who regularly incorporate green superfoods into their daily regimen have reported increased energy, mental clarity and an overall healthy glow. When stress, toxic thoughts and an imperfect diet have left your body’s engine sluggish, green superfoods are a quick and easy way to put yourself back on the road to health. Long may you run!

About the Author
Tom Hines, co-owner of NutritionGeeks.com (MN #1 Now Foods herbal provider), has been working in the nutrition industry since 1997, is a competitive powerlifter, lives with his wife Netti and three boys TJ, Grady and Brock on the prairie in west central Minnesota, spends his leisure time coaching youth wrestling, working with his horses and being play toy #1 for his boys.

The Joy of Being Vegetarian; by Louise Infante

A member of metabolism.com, Louise Infante, is a great enthusiast of the vegetarian life style. Louise submitted this blog to metabolism.com so we could help her get the word out. I found the article extremely informative and hope you do too. Thanks Louise for your effort.

Here is what Louise has to say:

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Give me five minutes and I’ll give you 1 very good reason for being vegetarian.

While fish is the most important dietary way to obtain the long-chain omega-3s eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid, which has been shown to be essential in supporting brain health, low intake of eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid in vegetarians does not adversely affect mood, reported by a new study (Nutr J. 2010;9:26. DOI:10.1186/1475-2891-9-26).

A research team from Arizona State University conducted a cross-sectional study to compare the mood of vegetarians who never eat fish with the mood of healthy omnivorous adults.

An overall total of 138 healthy Seventh Day Adventist adults residing in Arizona and California (64 vegetarians and 79 non-vegetarians) were enrolled in the study and completed a health history questionnaire, food frequency questionnaire and 2 psychometric tests, the Depression Anxiety Stress Scale and also the Profile of Mood States..

Vegetarians had significantly lower mean intakes of eicosapentaenoic acid, docosahexaenoic acid and the omega-6 arachidonic acid; they had higher intakes of the omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid and the omega-6 linoleic acid.

“Seed oils are the richest sources of α-linolenic acid, notably those of rapeseed (canola), soybeans, walnuts, flaxseed (Linseed oil), clary sage seeds, perilla, chia, and hemp.”

However, the vegetarians also reported significantly less negative emotion than omnivores in both psychometric tests. Mean total psychometric scores were positively linked to the mean intakes of eicosapentaenoic acid, docosahexaenoic acid and arachidonic acid , and inversely related to alpha-linolenic acid and linolenic acid intake.

The study team noted there is also the possibility that vegetarians may make better dietary choices and could generally be healthier and happier.

If you want to give it a try, here is an example of vegetarian recipe based on Italian cuisine

Italian Spaghetti with Zucchini

Ingredients:
* 17 oz. Spaghetti
* 24 oz. Of thin sliced zucchini
* 1 / 2 cup walnuts oil
* A few basil leaves
* 2 tablespoons of yeast flakes
* Salt and pepper

In a skillet or frying pan heat the oil and when hot, add garlic and zucchini. Raise heat and stir often to complete their cooking. They need to be golden and crispy outside and tender inside. Cook the pasta, drain and sauté in pan with zucchini, basil and yeast. Serve immediately.

Zucchini contain fewer calories and possess no fat. But they are a good source of potassium, e vitamin, ascorbic acid, folate, lutein and zeaxanthin.

These types of nutrients are extremely sensitive to heat and to enjoy their benefits you should find a quick solution to cook or even eat raw in salads.

From the therapeutic perspective, zucchini have laxative, refreshing, anti-inflammatory, diuretic and detoxifying action.

About the Author – Louise Infante writes for vegetarian menu blog, her personal hobby blog centered on vegetarian cooking tips to help people live better.

http://www.vegetarianmenu.net/1_great_reason_to_become_vegetarian_224.doc

What to expect from a Nutrition Consultation

What exactly is a Nutrition Consultation? That is Question Number One from the public! Well, a nutrition consultation is something that takes into account someone’s medical and weight history; blood work/laboratory values; activity; habits; Calorie, protein, carbohydrate, fat and fluid needs; nutrition support needs and personal goals. A good nutrition assessment will take all of this into account in order to get a full picture of a client and what their specific needs and recommendations are.

A very common issue is that people think they are eating way too much at night and want to cut down on their intake a night. Most of the time, these folks aren’t eating enough during the day and find themselves so hungry at night that they make up for missed meals and more! In this case, I teach that food is the best appetite suppressant around! If you eat good, solid, healthy meals and snacks, you won’t feel so hungry later on in the night.

Of course, sometimes people experience “emotional eating” where they are counting on food to meet an emotional need that they have. At first it may feel like the need is fulfilled. Food is comforting, nurturing, it can seem like a “companion”. HOWEVER, food is fuel, not emotional support. When we mistake food for emotional support, we stop looking for the real, underlying emotional issues that need our attention. That is when food becomes a distraction, a past time, even an addiction. I urge clients to look at food as food and not an emotional crutch or distraction.
On the other end of the spectrum are the folks who need to gain weight and can’t seem to gain no matter what they do. A nutrition consultation will provide an assessment of exactly how many Calories they need to maintain and to gain weight. It will provide guidance for consuming healthy foods and not empty Calories, as well as recommendations for maintaining lean body mass.

Some folks need nutrition support, especially if they are on medications that deplete nutrients. My professional opinion is that the majority of people in this country do not even meet the RDA’s for many nutrients and I believe that the RDA’s need to be updated to reflect current knowledge and research in the science of nutrition.

A Nutrition Consultation will also help dispel the numerous misleading concept about nutrition that are out there floating around on the internet and in the media. I teach people some very basic concepts so that when they look at the latest headlines or listen to what other people have to say about nutrition, they will be armed with knowledge that will help them to judge what it truly best for themselves. So that is a Nutrition Consultation in a NUTshell.
And as always,
Consider having an individualized consultation!
https://metabolism.com/beth-ellen-diluglio/

Beth Ellen DiLuglio, MS, RD, CNSD, CCN, LD/N
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