Harvard Medical School Belly Fat News and Weight Loss Tips for Women
A recent press release issued by the November issue of the Harvard Women’s Health Watch warns women that studies show that carrying around belly fat is much more than a cosmetic issue—it is also a warning sign that you are at risk of developing a fatal heart disease.
As it turns out, belly fat goes much deeper than the love handles you can pinch off from your waist. In fact, belly fat actually extends deeper into the abdomen and around your vital organs. Having fat deposits around your organs is harmful because, according to Dr. Paula Johnson, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, rather than being just inert deposits of fat that do nothing other than take up space, they are also doing damage that you may not be aware of until it is too late.
"The fat around the belly is particularly metabolically active, meaning that it produces a number of factors that increase the risks for heart disease," states Dr. Paula Johnson in a press release explaining that those factors include hormones and other substances that promote inflammation, raise blood pressure, alter cholesterol levels, and interfere with normal blood vessel activity. In other words, belly fat paves the way for women to suffer from metabolic syndrome—a constellation of factors that has been linked to heart disease, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes.
A diagnosis of metabolic syndrome is typically made by a physician when a patient presents with just 3 of the following risk factors:
• A waist measurement of 35 inches or more in women (40 inches in men).
• A triglyceride (blood fat) level of 150 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or higher.
• HDL ("good") cholesterol level of less than 50 mg/dL in women (40 mg/dL in men).
• A blood pressure reading of 130/85 mm Hg or higher.
• A fasting blood sugar level of 100 mg/dL or higher.
Health authorities are in agreement that our national epidemic of obesity or being overweight and carrying around an inordinate amount of belly fat is primarily due to our modern diet that is rich in processed foods consisting of white flour and sugar, eating portions that are greater than what the body needs and a decrease in the amount of exercise the average American gets per week.
Prevent the Accumulation of Belly Fat
And now that the holidays are almost upon us, the chances of eating more of the types of foods that add to belly fat are much higher and more difficult to avoid. To help people get a start on eating right, Harvard Health Publications offers these tips for this holiday as simple modifications you can make toward preventing the accumulation of additional belly fat:
• Peel the skin off your turkey and eat the white meat only—it's lower in fat than dark meat.
• Use low-sodium chicken broth in your stuffing recipe instead of butter.
• Add cornstarch and water to bird drippings instead of butter and flour to slim down your gravy.
• Eat a whole-wheat roll instead of white. Dip it in olive oil rather than spreading on butter.
• Cut your normal pie slice in half to save on calories. Top it with a small spoon of reduced-fat whipped topping or frozen yogurt instead of ice cream.
To beat belly fat, Harvard Women’s Health Watch also advises people to:
• Cut back on candy, cookies, and white bread. "Eating a large number of simple carbohydrates—sugars and simple starches—increases central obesity because they're broken down very quickly. You get a burst of insulin, and this stimulates the production of central body fat," says Dr. Paula Johnson.
• Trim portion sizes. Keep calories in check by cutting large restaurant meals in half or even thirds, and by serving dinners at home on a salad plate.
• Go low on the glycemic index. Compose the bulk of your meals from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Many of these foods are low on the glycemic index, meaning your body breaks them down slowly, leaving you feeling full for longer.
• Eat better fats. Switching to healthier fats alone won't help you lose weight, but it will help lower your heart disease risk. Avoid saturated fats (found in meats and butter) and trans fats (in fried foods and baked goods). Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in fish, nuts, and certain oils (olive, canola, flaxseed) can improve the health of your heart and blood vessels.
• Stay active. Exercise at a moderate pace (such as by taking a brisk walk or bike ride) for at least 150 minutes a week—or for even longer if you need to lose weight.
For more information on how to fight belly fat, follow the links below for some useful help from Dr. Oz and other health sources on how to lose your belly and regain your health:
Image Source: Courtesy of MorgueFile
Harvard Women's Health Watch: “Belly fat can signal an unhealthy heart, from the Harvard Women's Health Watch”
Harvard Women's Health Watch: “Fight fat to help your heart”