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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Why does fat around the belly have a higher risk factor for health complications such as cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes than fat predominantly deposited around the hips and buttocks?

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  • 1

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    With a PhD (Nutritional Food Science); BAppSci (Food Sci and Nutrition) (Honours); Cert 3 & 4 - Group Fitness and Personal Training, I am passionate … View Profile

    Fat deposited around the abdominal region puts more strain on the heart. We are not designed to have body fat around that region of our body. For men in particular, it is a big concern. Women having tummy fat is an issue as well, but our bodies are designed to cope with it a little bit better just because of the whole pregnancy systems that our bodies have to deal with for 9 months. For both males and females, it is highly undesirable because it does put more strain on your heart. You are constricting flow in that region. Having body fat in the hips and the bottom region is like a storage area. For women, it is actually good to have a little bit of fat down there because it aids in the childbirth process.

    Ideally you should be keeping body fat to a reasonable amount. A healthy range is roughly about 25% for girls and thereabouts for guys as well. If you do a waist-to-hip ratio calculation it will establish whether you are at a high risk of diabetes or cardiovascular disease. It is based on biochemical studies that have been done which show an elevated blood lipid profile in individuals, or in body shape. If they have got more around the abdomen tummy area it increases your risk of cardiovascular disease and/or Type 2 diabetes or associated conditions because of the elevated lipid profile. It is all based on biochemistry. Studies that have shown that blood lipid profiles that are not ideal in individuals who have the apple-shape versus the pear-shape for example.

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    My research interests include immunology and the mechanisms of amyloid formation. The latter has implications for people who are dealing with Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease … View Profile

    The biochemistry of this is fairly (though not completely) well understood.

    Visceral or abdominal fat (technically, adipose tissue) is metabolically active - it secretes a number of proteins (variously called cytokines, hormomes…) which, as others have pointed out, can have adverse health outcomes for Type II diabetes and CHD.

    The contrast is with sub-cutaneous adipose tissue, which is (essentially) metabolically inactive - it is a passive source of triglycerides.

    There is a reasonable summary of this here:

    http://www.health.harvard.edu/fhg/updates/Abdominal-fat-and-what-to-do-about-it.shtml 

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    Dr Kevin Dolan

    Bariatric (Obesity) Surgeon, Laparoscopic Surgeon

    Dr Dolan has been performing weight loss surgery in WA for 10 years, providing a long-term commitment to achieving and sustaining weight loss in conjunction … View Profile

    Fat around the abdomen is called a beer belly or a big apple shift and unfortunately this fat is actually associated with a decrease in a hormone called adiponectin, which protects us against hypercholesterolemia and cardiovascular disease, as well as diabetes. Patients with a lot of visceral fat have a low level of adiponectin, a high level of lipids such as cholesterol and an increased insulin resistance. The high level of lipids can lead to cardiovascular disease and the insulin reduced can lead to diabetes. So it's the type of fat that’s around the abdomen that's the problem.

  • Kirsty Woods

    Exercise Physiologist

    Hi I’m Kirsty Woods,I would like to use my experience, expertise and passion to help you reach your weight, energy and health goalsI have been … View Profile

    Put simply the abdominal area is where all you key organs, particularly your liver are situated. Excess fat around these organs they get stress, perform sub-optimally and  can cause a myriad of hormonal and inflammatory responses related to cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.   

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