Chris Meletis, ND writes about the studies and risks associated with abdominal fat.
by Chris D. Meletis, ND
Often, weight loss gets put on the back burner until the holidays are over. And when individuals do commit to a weight loss program in January, they concentrate on subtracting pounds from their total, overall weight. Although this is a worthwhile goal, the newest research is showing that this approach may be shortsighted. As one of the newest and most alarming studies demonstrated, abdominal fat may be a stronger predictor of premature death than overall weight. At a time of year when everyone’s mind is on weight loss, I thought it would be particularly appropriate to discuss the findings of this new study and explain an effective approach to reduce the visceral fat that accumulates around abdominal organs.
Ticking Time Bomb in Our Abdomens
Many of the past studies investigating the association between weight and risk of death have relied upon the body-mass index of the subjects. The BMI uses a person’s height and weight to calculate a score. Individuals who have a BMI of between 25 and 29.9 points are considered overweight; anyone with a higher score is considered obese. According to current treatment guidelines, physicians usually only measure patients’ waists if their patients’ BMI indicates they are overweight.
In the past, most studies on weight gain and risk of death depended upon the BMI, but few studies examined whether the distribution of body fat contributes to the prediction of death. Now, however, an emerging body of evidence is finding that it’s not how many pounds a person gains but rather where the weight settles.
The newest study to reach this conclusion was one of the largest of its kind. Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the study examined the association of BMI, waist circumference, and waist-to-hip ratio with the risk of death among 359,387 participants from nine countries. The subjects were taking part in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) trial and ranged in age from 25 to 70. Researchers divided participants into groups according to their BMI, waist circumference and waist-to-hip ratio. In nearly ten years of follow-up, more than 14,723 subjects died from various causes.
The results indicated that participants with large waists had an increased risk of death—even if they were considered to be normal weight based upon their BMI. Normal-weight males whose waists measured about 40 inches or more had double the risk of dying compared to those who had waists 34 inches or less. Females whose BMI was normal but who had waists 35 inches or more had a 79 percent increased chance of dying compared to female subjects whose waists were 28 inches or less.
Another finding of the study was that for every five-centimeter (about two inches) increase in waist size in subjects with any BMI score, death risk rose by 17 percent for males and 13 percent for females. Comparing waist-to-hip ratios resulted in similar findings.1
The researchers didn’t study why waist size increases the risk of death, but they theorize that the cause is likely visceral fat. Abdominal fat is usually visceral fat, which accumulates around organs and contributes to the development of the metabolic syndrome and heart disease.
Earlier in 2008, another study was published in the journal Circulation that reached a similar conclusion. In this study, scientists studied 44,636 women participating in the Nurses’ Health Study, to determine if there was an association between abdominal adiposity and all-cause and cause-specific mortality. During 16 years of follow-up, 3,507 deaths occurred, including 751 cardiovascular deaths and 1,748 cancer deaths. The researchers found that among normal-weight women (body mass index 18.5 to greater than 25 kg/m(2)), abdominal obesity was significantly associated with elevated cardiovascular disease mortality. Abdominal obesity also was strongly linked to death from cancer and other causes.2
The study authors concluded, “Measures of abdominal adiposity were strongly and positively associated with all-cause, CVD [cardiovascular disease], and cancer mortality independently of body mass index. Elevated waist circumference was associated with significantly increased CVD mortality even among normal-weight women.”
Abdominal Fat 101
In past issues of Vitamin Research News, we’ve discussed abdominal fat. Here is a reminder of why this type of fat is so dangerous to cardiovascular and overall health. Abdominal fat is actually comprised of: 1) subcutaneous fat, which accumulates under the skin and is relatively benign and 2) dense visceral fat, found deep in the abdomen, surrounding the intra-abdominal organs. Elevated levels of visceral fat causes metabolic syndrome and visceral fat cells release inflammatory cytokines such as C-reactive protein (CRP) and Interleukin (IL)-6, which contribute to chronic systemic inflammation. Visceral fat also can trigger increases in blood pressure due to the production of angiotensin, a chemical messenger that can cause the constriction of blood vessels. Even modest increases in visceral fat result in measurable endothelial dysfunction. Aging, excessive calorie intake and sedentary lifestyle all contribute to weight gain and visceral fat accumulation.
Lose the Visceral Fat, Gain Longevity
Due to visceral fat’s destructive role, an important part of a New Year’s weight loss plan is abdominal fat reduction. In my clinical practice, I have found that the easiest way to accomplish this goal is with the supplement known as Glabrinex™. In both animal and human published studies, Glabrinex has demonstrated the ability to inhibit the formation of visceral fat as well as body fat as a whole. This supplement contains a proprietary lipid-soluble extract of Glycyrrhiza glabra L root, standardized for bioactive polyphenol flavonoid compounds and the unique flavonoid glabridin. Glabrinex has been shown in clinical trials to reduce body weight, waist circumference and abdominal fat, and to help control blood glucose.
Glabrinex is able to suppress visceral fat, thereby helping to eliminate a significant cause of metabolic syndrome. Glabrinex down-regulates the body’s fat-forming processes and up-regulates the activity of fat burning enzymes. Glabrinex reduces the weight gain produced by a high-fat diet and helps to control blood glucose.
In human randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies, subjects experienced a reduction in body and abdominal fat after taking Glabrinex. They also experienced suppressed body weight gain.3, 4 In recent animal studies using Glabrinex, abdominal fat accumulation, increased blood glucose levels and body weight gain were suppressed in obese diabetic mice and high-fat-diet-induced obese mice.5,6
The evidence continues to pour in that visceral fat—the dense fat found surrounding intra-abdominal organs—not only is unsightly but also is dangerous to our health. Studies show that this type of fat is linked to the metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease and premature death. Therefore, consuming a supplement such as Glabrinex is an ideal way to embark upon a New Year’s weight loss program and is an important part of any regimen designed to support healthy aging.
1. Pischon T, Boeing H, Hoffmann K, Bergmann M, Schulze MB, Overvad K, van der Schouw YT, Spencer E, Moons KGM, Tjønneland A, Halkjaer J, and Jensen MK, et al. General and Abdominal Adiposity and Risk of Death in Europe. New England Journal of Medicine. November 13, 2008;359(20):2105-2120. Sc.M.
2. Zhang C, Rexrode KM, van Dam RM, Li TY, Hu FB. Circulation. 2008 Apr 1;117(13):1658-67. Abdominal obesity and the risk of all-cause, cardiovascular, and cancer mortality: sixteen years of follow-up in US women.
3. Tominaga, Y, Mae, T, Kitano, M, Sakamoto, Y, Ikematsu, H and Nakagawa, K. Licorice flavonoid oil effects body weight loss reduction in overweight subjects. J Health Sci. 2006. 52(6):672-683.
4. Aoki F, Nakagawa K, Kitano M, Ikematsu H, Nakamura K, Yokota S, Tominaga Y, Arai N, Mae T. Clinical safety of licorice flavonoid oil (LFO) and pharmacokinetics of glabridin in healthy humans. J Am Coll Nutr. 2007 Jun;26(3):209-18.
5. Nakagawa K, Kishida H, Arai N, Nishiyama T, Mae T. Licorice flavonoids suppress abdominal fat accumulation and increase in blood glucose level in obese diabetic KK-A(y) mice. Biol Pharm Bull. 2004 Nov;27(11):1775-8.
6. Aoki F, Honda S, Kishida H, Kitano M, Arai N, Tanaka H, Yokota S, Nakagawa K, Asakura T, Nakai Y, Mae T. Suppression by licorice flavonoids of abdominal fat accumulation and body weight gain in high-fat diet-induced obese C57BL/6J mice. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2007 Jan;71(1):206-14.
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