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Too much stomach fat and your lifestyle

With the spreading obesity epidemic throughout the world, a great deal of research is focusing on belly fat and disease risk.

One new study used cross-sectional information gathered in the long-term Framingham Heart Study to relate lifestyle habits with belly fat or subcutaneous adipose tissue.

2926 middle-aged participants were screened for diet, physical activity, smoking, and alcohol intake, and tested for body fat.

Researchers found that the more healthy lifestyle factors that individuals practiced, the lower the risk of both dangerous belly fat and subcutaneous adipose tissue.

Both a healthy diet and exercise were associated with reduced fat.

Higher alcohol intake in men was associated with increased belly fat, but not in women.

Both current and former smokers had more belly fat (Molenaar EA, Association of Lifestyle Factors with Abdominal Subcutaneous and Visceral Adiposity: The Framingham Heart Study, Diabetes Care, December 2008).

How dangerous is excess stomach fat?

It is not only undesirable socially, but has been characterized as "sick fat."

As part of metabolic syndrome, it contributes to diabetes and atherosclerotic heart disease, the most common cause of death in developed countries (along with cancer).

Lifestyle programs for "sick belly fat" should be included in comprehensive treatment programs for metabolic syndrome, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and other heart disease risk factors (Bays HE, "Sick fat," metabolic disease, and atherosclerosis. American Journal of Medicine, January 2009).

If you're working on New Year's health resolutions, you may want to consider diet, exercise, alcohol, and smoking changes.

You may also want to consider daily green tea as part of a healthy lifestyle, if appropriate.

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This page last updated by Sharon Jones on March 19, 2013

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