(CARLSBAD, CA) - All fats are not created equal. While many of us fixate on bathroom scale digits, research suggests that the actual location of excess fat is a bigger deal. Pear-shaped bodies, with fat situated around the hips and thighs, may be an unpleasing sight in the mirror. But apple-shaped bodies contain a greater amount of visceral fat, commonly known as “belly fat,” which is hazardous to your health.
All bodies have two main types of fat. Subcutaneous fat, which is generally located in the hip and thigh region, is stored just under the skin. Visceral fat, on the other hand, is stored deeper inside the body. It is found embedded in and around the liver and other mid-section organs and has been directly linked to a higher risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some types of cancer.
Researchers have not yet determined exactly how visceral fat functions in the body that makes it so dangerous. They do know that visceral fat produces more inflammatory molecules than subcutaneous fat. These harmful molecules increase risk of heart disease and diabetes.
This groundbreaking research has caused many doctors across the United States to begin looking at waist circumference as a key component of their patients’ health profiles. Mayo Clinic recommendations state that body mass index (BMI) is a good but imperfect guide because muscular people often have a high BMI without the related health risks. Therefore, waist circumference is a more useful tool in determining risk factors for heart disease.
So, how much belly fat is too much? Harvard Medical School research indicates heart problems are more common among women with a waist circumference greater than 35 inches. The American Heart Association concurs with the 35-inch rule for women, and suggests that men keep their waist circumference under 40 inches.
Fortunately, visceral fat can be decreased. While it’s impossible to spot reduce just one type of fat, there are a few key steps that you can take to whittle away your middle.
- Decrease stress – The abdominal area has a large blood supply, which attracts the stress hormone cortisol. High cortisol levels are linked to fat deposits. When you lower your stress level, then cortisol lessens, which in turn minimizes new deposits of fat to the abdominal region.
- Adopt the Mediterranean diet – The popular Mediterranean diet is rich in “good fat” foods, such as olive oil, fish, and nuts. These foods have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body, and the Omega-3 fatty acids reduce yet another stress hormone, adrenaline.
- Pump-up the cardio – While people often target their midsection with sit-ups or crunches, the American College of Sports Medicine suggests that these exercises only strengthen the muscles, whereas cardio exercise burns fat. Of course, crunches are beneficial, but cardiovascular workouts are most vital to reducing belly fat. Jazzercise CEO Judi Sheppard Missett suggests participation in cardio exercise a minimum of 30 minutes most days of the week.
- Lose weight – A healthy diet and exercise program will jump-start weight loss, which is a key component of visceral fat reduction. In fact, some studies show that women who lost 10-15 percent of their body weight lost as much as 30 percent of their visceral fat.
So, the next time you are tempted to step-on the scale, try using a tape measure instead. Once you have determined your waist circumference, remember that the journey to visceral fat reduction begins with one small step toward your goal.
Jazzercise, created by Judi Sheppard Missett, is the world's leading dance-fitness program with more than 7,500 instructors teaching 32,000 classes weekly in the U.S. and around the globe. Since 1969, millions of people of all ages and fitness levels have reaped the benefits of this comprehensive program, designed to enhance cardiovascular endurance, strength, and flexibility. For more information on Jazzercise go to jazzercise.com or call (800)FIT-IS-IT or (760)476-1750.