Call it beer belly, love handles, spare tire: doctors say men with large bellies have increased risk of death by various associated diseases
By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
Love handles, spare tire, beer belly: whatever it’s called, it’s not pretty and it can actually harm a man’s health.
The issue is that weight around the belly is visceral fat that surrounds the organs. Joy Valvano, registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator with Rochester Regional Health, said that this deep fat increases risk of some chronic disease like cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance, Type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure, colorectal cancer, sleep apnea.
UR Medicine Primary Care physician Louis Papa said that the location of these fat deposits — not the overall weight — is what’s so vital.
“People with a normal body mass index (BMI) but with more belly fat are at a greater risk of disease than people with a high BMI but normal amount of belly fat,” Papa said.
He added that people with an abnormal amount of belly fat have a 51 percent increased risk of death by various associated diseases than those with a normal amount of belly fat.
“Since belly fat is related to insulin resistance and inflammatory changes, that puts you at higher risk for these diseases,” Papa said. “These fat cells have a lot of hormonal activity. The belly/hip fat produces a lot of endocrine and hormonal activity that puts you at risk for diabetes and heart disease.”
So how can you specifically get rid of belly fat?
“We don’t know a good way to get rid of just belly fat,” Papa said.
Although lots of marketing hype promises to blast belly fat with a product or technique, it’s not that easy since weight loss can’t target one area. Instead, try these expert tips:
• Don’t use fad diets. “With a lot of fad diets, 95 percent of people gain the weight back. Any diet that has some sustained weight loss is pretty modest: 10 to 15 pounds of weight loss on average,” Papa said.
• Reduce caloric intake. “People who lose weight measure, measure and measure more. They count calories and they’re very driven to that. Some count it with points or portion sizes and they stick to it,” Papa added.
• Tone muscles. “We know that eating well and increasing activity both go a long ways towards helping us lose weight. Abdominal muscles can be toned through exercises. The way to get rid of belly fat is to lose weight overall,” Valvano said.
• Eat better foods. “Emphasize more plant-based foods: lean protein, whole fruits and vegetables, and limit sources of animal-based fat. Choose more mono-saturated fat and poly-unsaturated fat in nuts, fish, and vegetable oils. Don’t overdo them, but they are better choices,” Valvano said.
• Choose better beverages. “Avoid sugary drinks and alcohol. It contributes to excess weight,” Valvano said.
• Get help and get moving. “Talk with your doctor if you haven’t been exercising. The physical activity recommendation for most healthy adults is moderate aerobic activity for 150 minutes a week, plus strength training a few times a week. You may need to exercise more for specific weight loss goals,” Valvano said.
• Be patient. “We recommend when people want to lose weight they should aim for slow, steady weight loss. You don’t want to go on a crash diet or excessively exercise. It can be hard to maintain that level of restrictive diet,” Valvano said.
Belly Fat: Do You Have One?
Not sure if your girth is too great? The way clothing fits can be deceiving, as low-rise and high-rise styles don’t indicate where your waist really is. Try this tip from Joy Valvano. Stand up, place a flexible tape measure just above the hip bone and around you snugly and level all the way. Don’t suck in your belly. If the measurement is greater than 40 inches, you have too much belly fat.