Abdominal Obesity: Fashion Statement or Health Concern?
A fit, healthy body—that is the best fashion statement
― Jess C. Scott
There seems to be a burgeoning population of individuals “rocking a pot belly” these days. In this era of padded underwear and enhancing body garments, one must wonder if there is a new addition to the line – the gut pads.
Pot belly (Abdominal obesity) is the presence of excess fat in the abdominal cavity. This kind of fat is the visceral fat, located around internal organs. Excessive belly fat has been associated with high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, erectile dysfunction and cancer all of which significantly affect quality of life and life expectancy.
What factors contribute to developing a pot belly?
Age: As men and women grow older, they experience a decline in sex hormones which reduces the rate of metabolism thereby increasing the tendency for fat storage.
Gender: Women and men metabolize and store fat differently due to hormonal differences. While women tend to store fat in their hips, thighs and buttocks (subcutaneous fat), men store fat in their abdomen (visceral fat).
Net Energy Imbalance: Consuming more usable calories than is expended while leading a sedentary lifestyle flings the doors wide open for belly fat.
Genetics: The pear shaped individuals store more fat below the waist (in their hips, thighs and buttocks) while the apple shaped persons store more fat above the waist (around their midsection). Generally, the chances of having a pot belly are higher in the “Apples”.
Hormonal Imbalance and Stress: Excess cortisol; a hormone secreted under stress and hormonal imbalance activates fat-storage enzymes in cells which can lead to the dreaded spare tyre.
Poor Sleeping Habits: Sleep deprivation triggers high release of cortisol which stimulates appetite. It also causes the body to release more of the hormone that signals hunger (ghrelin) and less of the hormone that suppresses appetite (leptin).
Nutrition: Eating high-fat diets and LARGE amounts of refined carbohydrates have been found to cause increased waist circumference.
THE MOMENT OF TRUTH
A simple way to assess abdominal obesity is to measure the waist circumference using a tape measure at the navel. A reading greater than 102cm (40 inches) and 88cm (35 inches) in men and women respectively indicate a high risk of abdominal obesity. A waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) is another useful tool of assessment. It is the division of the waist measurement by the hip measurement. A WHR higher than 0.80 in women and 0.90 in men suggests a high risk of being potbellied.
THE WAY FORWARD
The real secret to losing belly fat is lifestyle modification; diet, exercise, sleep, and stress management.
A balanced, calorie-controlled diet of complex and unrefined carbohydrates, protein, unsaturated fats and Omega-3 fatty acids with lots of water is highly recommended.
Moderate – high intensity exercise (30 minutes to 1 hour) daily is one way to lose visceral fat.
Sleeping for about 7 hours at night is essential to having that summer bod.
Pace yourself, make time for fun and relaxation.