Just how dangerous is having belly fat?
Fat, believe it or not, is essential for survival. Your body needs it for organ protection and the release of energy. However, it’s also important to know about the different types of body fat building up in your body. For example, if you have too much visceral fat, that can be dangerous. And it is certainly on mass display in the UAE, which is now ranked the fifth most obese nation in the world.
There are two types of body fat: The first is the subcutaneous fat, which hides itself beneath the skin and sits over the muscle. Although it may not look all that pretty (usually it presents itself in the form of cellulite and dimples on your skin), it is not too harmful. But then there is visceral fat, and yes, you need to be worried about that.
Visceral body fat (which comes from sugar and all those bad carbs) is found inside the abdomen and surrounds your internal organs. This is the body fat that you don’t want to be burdened with as it opens doors to all kinds of disease. Visceral fat will often start building up in the abdomen, and if you continue eating the wrong foods, this type of fat will just continue piling up as you grow bigger and rounder until you’ve got that “apple shape” form to your body.
1. High body fat causes a vicious cycle of inflammation
A lean abdomen is a reflection of a healthy body, and the latest studies have shown that visceral fat surrounding your belly should be more worrisome than fat surrounding your thighs or any other areas of your body. Our abdominal area is held tightly by a layer of healthy body fat, which serves the purpose of ensuring all organs found in the abdomen are coiled side-by side. However an increase in visceral fat leaves your body no choice but to surround and coat your abdominal organs with clingy excess fat, so much so that it creates an expansion and separation between your organs. So how does this all cause inflammation? Well, the fat tissue that’s sitting around your abdomen is brewing toxicities that create inflammation, which results in the hyper-secretion of interleukin-6, interleukin-8, TNF-alpha, and cytokines. When over-produced, these enhance inflammation.
2. High body fat causes non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
Where does visceral fat go when it has no new place to settle? Your liver. We’re not talking about fatty liver disease that you risk getting from heavy drinking. We’re talking about non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) that you can contract from the visceral fat surrounding your abdomen. And this primarily happens due to the fact that your liver is located behind your stomach. Foods that influence your risk of getting a fatty liver include carbs, sugar, and the notorious high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which is known to pass right by your stomach and dive straight into your liver. The damage to the liver all starts when there is a heavy fat accumulation, which is mainly a process called steatosis, in which there is an abnormal retention of fats inside the liver cells. Because of this, your liver develops cirrhosis, a condition that leads to inflammation and scarring, which makes it harder for your liver to filter blood and carry out essential bodily functions. Bergamet, which is derived from a citrus fruit native to southern Italy, is one of the only remedies proven to reduce NAFLD.
3. High body fat can lead to dementia
Carrying a concentrated amount of fat in the middle of your body puts you at higher risk of cognitive imbalance after you hit 40, and developing Alzheimer’s at an older age. The adipose tissue (what makes up your fat) that surrounds your abdomen is basically spewing a pile of disease-generating cells known as cytokines, which not only causes inflammation but also ignites dangerous waves in your brain This contributes to neurodegeneration. Studies indicate that the more visceral fat you have around your abdomen, the more your brain shrinks in volume. Alteration of brain structure can lead to a number of concerns and illnesses, such as memory impairment, depression, Alzheimer’s, and different forms of dementia.
4. High body fat causes type 2 diabetes
Obesity and type 2 diabetes risk is a no-brainer, but did you know that you should be more afraid of your expanding waistline than your growing thighs? You are at a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes if most of your fat sits around your abdomen, as opposed to being spread all over. We all know that the first sign of developing type 2 diabetes is insulin resistance. However, leptin resistance (leptin being the hormone which is responsible for how much you eat and how much fat you burn) also causes an increase in visceral fat, which in turn raises your probability of getting type 2 diabetes. You see, when you consume grains, sugars, and those lousy carbs, the sugar metabolizes, turns into fat, and gets stored in fat cells. This causes a surge in leptin, which leads to leptin resistance. From there it is a vicious cycle because your body craves more sugar, you’re storing more fat, and you don’t feel full when you should, causing you to over eat.
5. High body fat causes cardiovascular diseases
We can’t talk about abdominal fat without mentioning one of the most vital organs in your body – your heart. For decades health practitioners and food guidelines have been promoting the notion that fats found in eggs, butter, and meats are the cause behind those skyrocketing rates of heart diseases. However, your body’s real enemy this whole time is sugar (in all forms) that you consume on a daily basis. Sugar will add those extra pounds, and the intra-abdominal fat (that big belly), can lead to high blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol levels, and can prevent your body from properly using insulin. All of this can put you at serious risk for cardiovascular disease.
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Graham Simpson, MD is Chief Medical Officer and Founder of Intelligent Health, a preventive medical centre located in Jumeirah. Dubai. He graduated from the University of the Witwatersrand Medical School in Johannesburg, South Africa, and is board certified in Internal Medicine and Emergency Medicine. As a founding member of the American Holistic Medical Association (AHMA) Dr Simpson is also a licensed homeopath.