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Why is Belly Fat Dangerous?

Written By: Emma Squillace

We know that being overweight or obese is tied to dangerous health conditions. Research shows that obesity is correlated with multiple types of cancer including breast, esophageal, colon, ovarian, and pancreatic. We also know that obesity is significantly correlated with type 2 diabetes, as well as leading causes of death like cardiac disease and strokes.  But did you know that fat around your belly is more dangerous than fat elsewhere? Why is fat so dangerous? 

Belly fat: a danger

One interesting finding in clinical research is that belly fat seems to be more dangerous, in some cases, than fat on other parts of the body. In fact the ‘waist to hip ratio’ is a measurement that we look at often in healthcare. While weight and BMI are useful in certain ways, the waist to hip ratio tells us how much belly fat someone has, relative to the fat on the rest of their body. You may hear about someone with a large waist to hip ratio being described as “apple shaped”.

Belly fat itself has been linked to health problems. For instance, a recent study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, showed a correlation between belly fat and reduced cognitive ability. It is believed that belly fat’s interference in cognitive ability is linked to fat’s inflammatory properties. Past studies have shown that inflammation is linked to reduced cognitive function. This is a particularly important finding considering how significantly the number of dementia cases are expected to increase in the next few decades.

Understanding inflammation

We discussed that belly fat has inflammatory properties. You may picture fat as cells that do nothing other than store extra energy. But scientists have found substantial evidence showing that fat cells are not ‘just sitting there.’ Instead, these fat cells actively send signals to other parts of your body. Fat cells are able to secrete protein and hormones.  This is potentially very dangerous, and helps explain how fat itself can be linked to negative health conditions. Inflammation is caused when fat cells get over-excited and send signals to your body that are not healthy. The inflammation you find in fat cells is not the intense inflammation you might get from a sprained ankle. On the contrary, fat cells maintain a long-term, low level of inflammation that can cause chronic illness and is linked to diseases like type 2 diabetes and cancers.

Belly fat: location matters

One important point about belly fat is the location of it is significant. The problem here is that your belly area has so many vital organs. When you accumulate fat in this area, the fat is actually surrounding organs like your liver, stomach, and intestines. This fat is known as ‘visceral’ fat.  Even for people who are not obese, excess belly fat has been linked to:

  • Heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Sleep apnea

Extra belly fat is also linked to premature death from any cause. Belly fat can be dangerous too because the fat around our organs is harder to see on the outside, so even someone who does not appear to be obese, may be carrying more dangerous fat than they know.

At West Medical, we offer a range of treatments for obesity. Our team does not treat obesity primarily because of the cosmetic reasons, but because of the significant health issues that carrying extra weight can bring. Losing a substantial amount of weight, and maintaining that weight loss, can be a true life-changer. It can help protect from heart disease, stroke, cancers, osteoarthritis, and many more health conditions. At West Medical we offer procedures like the gastric bypass, gastric sleeve, and non-surgical gastric balloon options. You can reach our supportive team at (855) 690-0565 to ask any questions or get started on your journey.

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