Do you assume that because someone is thin that they are also fit? Well, hold on to your hat, researchers are saying that many thin people have the same heart disease risk and type 2 diabetes risk as obese people. In fact, they say that some thin people are at higher risk than sumo wrestlers! The reason? Intra-abdominal fat.
According to Dr. Jimmy Bell, a professor of molecular imaging at Imperial College London, “being thin deosn’t aurtomatically mean you’re not fat”. It’s what’s inside that makes a difference to your health. Internal fat surrounding vital organs such as the heart and liver can be as dangerous as the fat that you see. Since 1994, Dr. Bell and his collegues have been mapping the fat stores of people to show where people store fat. They have scanned and recorded more than 800 people.
When most people gain weight, the fat is subcutaneous and we see it. We have known for years that a person who gains fat around the middle of their body is at increased risk for heart disease etc., but this was viewed as an obesity related issue. Now, it’s clear that even thin people are at risk.
Of the women scanned in the study, 45% of those with normal body mass indices (BMI) had excessive levels of internal fat. Of the men? 60%!
Dr. Bell’s research indicates that people who control their weight with diet rather than exercise are likely to have major deposits of fat around their internal organs, no matter how slim they appear on the outside. This leads us to the idea that exercise is the key to controlling levels of fat you can see and fat you can’t see.
What’s the difference in the health risks of subcutaneous fat and intra-abdominal fat?
The metabolic characteristics of intra-abdominal fat are different from subcutaneous fat (the stuff you see). Intra-abdominal fat releases free fatty acids to drain directly into the liver, whereas subcutaneous fat drains into the systemic circulation. The influx of free fatty acids in the liver results in overproduction of very low density lipoprotein, and retention of low density lipoprotein, the “bad cholesterols” in the bloodstream. This can also lead to a lower level of high density lipoprotein, the “good cholesterol”.
This research offers a possible explanation for, while the population in developing South East Asian countries still have lower rates of obesity, have a high per capita incidence of Type II diabetes and heart disease. Of course, smoking is still prevalent in this region as well…
What to do? Exercise and eat healthily! And remember… Muscles burn fat.
Around age 35, unless maintained through exercise, the body begins to lose muscle and gain fat. Since muscles require energy where as fat cells act as energy storage, a person who stays slim by dieting will require fewer calories as they lose muscle. Over the years, the metabolism slows down because the body has less muscle to burn energy. Any extra energy will be stored as fat somewhere even if it’s not visible to the naked eye.
If the muscle mass is maintained, the body will simply use fat rather than store it.
It’s a simple concept, really…. Dieting may keep a body slim; but healthy eating and a combination of aerobic and resistance exercise keeps a body slim, strong and disease resistant. Hmmm…just more proof that exercise keeps you younger.