Why is having Belly Fat considered unhealthy?

Belly Fat is Far More Dangerous than Having a Total BMI in Obese Range
October 26 2012

By Dr. Mercola
A study on belly fat presented at the European Society of Cardiology
Congress12confirms that visceral fat – the type that gathers around your internal
organs – is far more dangerous to your health than you might think.
The traditional index of obesity, BMI (body mass index), has been proven
to be terribly flawed as having a normal overall BMI and high abdominal obesity
was found to be more dangerous than having a total BMI in the obese range.
For example, cardiovascular deaths in the study were 2.75 times higher
for those of normal weight who had big bellies compared to those with both a
normal BMI and a normal waist-to-hip ratio. It also implies that monitoring
one’s belly fat is more important than watching BMI.
According to Medical News Today:3
“Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, M.D., senior author and a cardiologist at
Mayo Clinic in Rochestor, explained: ‘We knew from previous research that
central obesity is bad, but what is new in this research is that the
distribution of the fat is very important even in people with a normal weight.
This group has the highest death rate, even higher than those who are
considered obese based on body mass index. From a public health perspective,
this is a significant finding.’
…Dr. Lopez-Jimenez wants readers to understand that even though their
body mass index might be normal, it doesn’t mean they have a low risk of heart
disease. People can determine their risks by getting a waist-to-hip
measurement, because where fat is distributed on the body can tell a lot, even
if people have normal body weights.”
Your Ideal
“Weight” is Not Necessarily Based on Pounds…
There are a number of methods for calculating your ideal body size. The
study above used waist-to-hip measurement. This is done by measuring the
circumference of your hips at the widest part, across your buttocks. Then
measure your waist at the smallest circumference of your natural waist, just
above your belly button. Divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement
to get the ratio.
The University of Maryland offers a handy online waist-to-hip ratio calculator you can
use, which also tells you whether or not you might be at an increased risk for
heart disease. The featured study used the following waist-to-hip ratio designation
  • Normal = 0.85 or below in women, and 0.90 or below in men
  • High = 0.85 or greater in women, and 0.90 or greater in men
Another even simpler method to figure out if you have a weight problem
is to measure only your waist circumference (the distance around the smallest
area below the rib cage and above your belly button). Waist circumference is
the easiest anthropometric measure of total body fat.
Either of these methods are far better than BMI for judging disease
risk, as BMI fails to factor in how muscular you are. BMI also cannot give you
an indication of your intra-abdominal fat mass.
Waist size, on the other hand, gives a good indication of the amount of
fat you’re carrying, particularly around the stomach area. Abdominal fat is
considered an important risk factor for cardiovascular diseases such as
coronary heart disease and stroke. Your waist size is also a powerful indicator
of insulin sensitivity, as studies clearly show that measuring your waist size
is one of the most powerful ways to predict your risk for diabetes. If you’re
not sure if you have a healthy waist circumference, a general guide is:
For men, between 37 and 40 inches is overweight and more than 40 inches
is obese
  • For women, between 31.5 and 34.6 inches is overweight, and more than
    34.6 inches is obese
Body Fat Percentage
– Another Way to Gauge Ideal Body Size
Yet another tool, which many experts are now leaning toward as the most
accurate measure of obesity, is body fat percentage. As it sounds, this is
simply the percentage of fat your body contains, and it can be a powerful
indicator of your health.
Too much body fat is linked to chronic health problems like high blood
pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
  • Too little body fat is also problematic and can cause your body to enter
    a catabolic state, where muscle protein is used as fuel.
A general guideline from the American Council on Exercise is as follows:
Classification Women (percent fat) Men (percent fat)
Essential Fat 10-13 percent 2-5 percent
Athletes 14-20 percent 6-13 percent
Fitness 21-24 percent 14-17 percent
Acceptable 25-31 percent 18-24 percent
Obese 32 percent and higher 25 percent and higher
Body fat calipers are one of the most trusted and most accurate ways to
measure body fat. A body fat or skinfold caliper is a lightweight, hand-held
device that quickly and easily measures the thickness of a fold of your skin
with its underlying layer of fat. Taken at three very specific locations on
your body, these readings can help you estimate the total percent of body fat
within your entire body.
You can also use a digital scale that determines body fat, which is what
I use personally. I use an Eat Smart Precision GetFit Body Fat Scale that I
picked up from Amazon for around $50. Although many body fat measurements can
be inaccurate, they are nearly all more accurate than BMI, and are particularly
useful to determine whether you are gaining or losing fat. Although the
absolute value may be off, the direction you are going (whether your body fat
is going up or down) will be very accurate, and this is an incredibly useful
measure of whether you’re nearing your health goals or not.
Remember that it is FAR better to monitor your body fat percentage than
it is your total weight, as the body fat percentage is what dictates metabolic
health or dysfunction – not your total weight.
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