What it is.
Summary: This blog is a discussion of abdominal obesity and its special risks to health. The fat in this gentleman’s abdomen is a ticking time bomb and will likely play a big role in his demise. If you have a tummy that looks like this or even a little bit like this – check out this blog. It is much easier to keep this from happening than it is to get rid of it.
This is a picture from the newspaper, showing a gentleman with a large abdomen. The process of our stomach growing outward all by itself is a phenomenon that is occurring frequently in American men and women. It has occurred throughout history but mostly in non working aristocratic folks.
It can be called a variety of words.
- Spare tire
This strange phenomenon can occur slowly over a period of years so it creeps up on a person. Often a picture of yourself will be your first clue that you have lost your youthful figure. Other hints are inability to see your shoes when you are standing, can’t bend over because your stomach is in the way and low back pain from the strain of having this weight out in front. The lumbar spine has to compensate for the weight in front so it makes more of an arch and strains the discs and ligaments to compensate and keep you balanced.
A potbelly is fat that is located inside your abdominal cavity behind your abdominal muscles and inside the lining of the abdominal cavity. It shares space with your, liver, stomach, intestines, pancreas, and spleen. This fat also pushes up on the diaphram making breathing difficult. It also pushes up on the stomach when you lie down which can cause stomach contents to slosh up into the esophagus and can lead to cancer of the esophagus. Urinary incontenence, stasis ulcers, systolic hypertension, and increased spinal and cerebral fluid pressure are also on the “potbelly list”. Most people that have a pot belly have trouble doing a simple sit-up because their abdominal muscles are thinned out by stretching over this fatty mass. If you want measurements, try waist – 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women. If the waist circumference is twice the hip circumference, then the problem is severe.
How come this has happened to me?
We live in a potbelly prone environment. It is the usual suspects: sitting, low activity levels, fructose, omega -6 fats and trans fats. Men are more prone to get this problem. Estrogen is protective against it. After menopause, women catch up when their fat in the buttocks, hips and thighs will migrate to their abdomen as their estrogen levels drop off.
Has it always occurred in people?
Eating more calories than the body needs sets the stage for abdominal obesity. Sweet and fatty calories seem to be worse than such foods as fruits and vegetables. There is some genetics at play also. There are people whose bodies use the excess calories to make fat and deposit the fat close to the skin all over the body – not in the abdominal cavity. If you have a potbelly then you are not one of these people.
What is it a sign of – as a society?
A perfect storm has occurred with so many different factors coming together to create this epidemic of obesity of which abdominal obesity is the most dangerous.
These are our enemies if we want to stay thin:
Tv, video games, elevators, computers, sitting, loss of physically demanding jobs, cars
On the food side of the table is marbleized beef, use of corn in processed foods, high fructose corn syrup, trans fats, low omega – 3 fats and high omega – 6 fats, saturated animal fats,
This link describes feeding rats with normal and low omega – 3 fat diets. The low omega -3 group became obese and had detrimental consequences to their organ function. Much of their fat was deposited in the abdomen.
A disturbed good fat/bad fat relationship is just another reason we Americans are developing potbellies.
Is it a problem?
A potbelly is a ticking time bomb. It is about as dangerous to your health as smoking cigarettes or not exercising.
What medical problems come with it?
Abdominal fat is like a cancer in that it is disruptive to the overall organism and it will usually kill the host, so you can say that it is “lethal” in the long run.
This link by Zhang studies obese members of the Nurses’ Health Study. Over l6 years there was a correlation between the abdominal girth and cardiovascular disease. Of note is that nurses with normal BMI but enlarged abdominal girth participated in the increased cardiovascular mortality.
The connection between abdominal obesity and cardiovascular disease comes by way of a problem called “syndrome x”. This consists of hypertension, impaired glucose tolerance i.e. high blood sugar, high triglycerides, and low HDL cholesterol. This magic combination increases vascular inflammation and arteriosclerotic vascular disease ensues. As the arteries become diseased, the blood flowing to the body organs is decreased and the blood pressure goes up. In the late stages, plaques form and can flip up or break off and occlude the artery completely. If it is a heart artery, the heart muscle can become unable to pump and you die clutching your chest.
This link shows what happens when rats are fed pork fat and sugar (think ice cream) as a supplement to their regular chow. The rats get fat and develop insulin intolerance and similar problems that humans get. The researchers studied the fat in the belly and found certain cells called macrophages and plasmocytes which promote the inflammatory process throughout the vascular system.
The people writing this report are not from the USA as you can see, and the translation is a little bumpy but easier to read overall than many of what we see originating in the USA. The bottom line is that abdominal fat is a ticking time bomb and whoever owns it should move “health care” up to number one of his or her passions.
Here is a similar article that feeds rats high fat diets and finds the onset of vascular disease and discusses the elevated blood plasma chemicals responsible. The study was done for just 6 weeks. What is memorable is that in just 6 weeks on a high fat diet, like we eat, rats turn normal arteries into damaged arteries. In defense of rats, I would say that they are not designed to eat a fatty diet unless they live their life in a fast food restaurant. It is much like us – we are designed to eat mostly fruits, vegetables, berries, beans, lentils and things like that. When we eat a high fat diet, it injures our arteries and can eventually kill us.
The vascular changes in Americans show up microscopically at 4 years of age, but by late teenage years the changes to an artery become obvious to the naked eye and begins to close off the lumens of various arteries. This was present in the autopsies done on our young Korean War soldiers but not the South Korean soldiers who favored a different diet. . Our diet has even worsened since then by adding more soda pop, deep fried foods, processed foods and heavily salted foods.
For those women that have stuck it out to this point, if you are worried about getting breast cancer after menopause, then read this for the connection between obesity and breast cancer.
They do not incriminate abdominal obesity per se, but abdominal obesity is the most biologically active compared to subcutaneous obesity. So a post menopausal woman with a pot belly has put herself directly in the path of the number one and number two killers of women: cancer and heart attacks.
This is a good summary of what we have been discussing about the correlation between abdominal obesity and death. I’m not sure you are reading the links, so here is the abstract:
Clustering of multiple risk factors such as impaired glucose metabolism, lipid disorders and hypertension has been shown to be the major background of atherosclerotic diseases, and disease entities such as the metabolic syndrome represent a highly atherogenic state. Although these common risks may generally co-exist by accident in one individual, clustering of multiple risk factors in the metabolic syndrome does not occur by accident, and there should be a key player for the syndrome. In 1983, we reported the method for fat analysis using computed tomography scan, which enables us to analyze intra-abdominal visceral adiposity as well as subcutaneous fat. Visceral fat accumulation has been shown to cause impaired glucose metabolism, lipid disorders, and hypertension, and therefore it is considered to be a key player in the metabolic syndrome. To clarify the mechanism by which visceral fat accumulation causes a variety of metabolic and vascular diseases, we studied the molecular characteristics of adipose tissue and adipocytes by investigating expressed genes in visceral and subcutaneous adipocytes and revealed that adipocytes, especially visceral adipocytes, secrete a variety of bioactive substances, the so-called adipocytokines. We showed that visceral fat accumulation causes abnormalities in adipocytokine secretion, such as hypersecretion of plasminogen activator inhibitor 1, which is related to thrombogenic vascular diseases. More importantly, we discovered an important benign adipocytokine named adiponectin, which protects against the development of diabetes mellitus, hypertension, inflammation, and atherosclerotic vascular diseases. Plasma levels of adiponectin decreased in individuals with visceral fat accumulation, and hypoadiponectinemia caused by visceral fat accumulation might be one of the major causes of metabolic syndrome.
PMID: 19136997 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]
Many of you are asking yourselves about the relationship of intra-abdominal fat and pure pressure in the abdomen as one of the reasons for the multiple medical problems that crop up with a pot-belly. Anotherwords, does the fat cause more pressure in the belly that restrict blood from going to the heart. Can pressure effect the liver and kidneys from doing their job? America wants to know.
The evidence is in. Having a pot belly decreases your longevity and puts you in the path of a heart attack or stroke. The question is: how are you going to deal with it. Will you seek a few pills to bail you out, or diet and exercise the fat off.
How do I get rid of this fat glob out there in front of me? I had no idea it could kill me. What about a pill?
A statin, or cholesterol lowering agent can deal with some of the changes associated with syndrome x, such as high LDL cholesterol.
Can the fat be sucked out of me?
The fat in the abdomen is wrapped around organs and blood vessels that would make it too dangerous to suck out or surgically remove.
Ok – what can I do to get rid of it and will it help my health?
First take out your paper and pencil and write 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 down as the things you are most passionate about. You know the answers but in what order do they occur. Is your spouse #2, or golf, or the grandkids? Where is work, or religion? Put them down in order and sleep on it overnight and rearrange them if needed.
Then think about giving all of these up if you die tomorrow. All the things you cherish – all the things you are passionate about will be taken from you and they will suffer for your passing. Perhaps no college for the kids, lose the house, a complete unraveling of the things you have passion for.
After adjusting the order of the list after sleeping on it – put “personal health” down in ink at the #1 spot above all the rest. If you are dead, what will happen to all the things you have passion for?
Doing the thindex health steps 1 – 9 will get this job done. Pay special attention to the ratio of sitting to walking. If the diet and walking do not have results then you must sit less and less until you see results. The keys to success are: low fat vegetable and fruit diet, walking enough hours each day to see weight loss, doing sit-ups as shown in health step#5, getting to work under your own power if possible, being responsible for your own food, not eating out. When you are off work, like on a week-end, exercise more. Eat minimally after 3pm. Partner up with others who will share your passion to take control of your health. Stay in touch with them through the “Rose of the Day” if you like. Win the day. Win the week. Win the month. Win the year. However long it takes, but get it done. Once you have gotten rid of the time bomb in your stomach, it is easy to stick with the program.
You can then spend the rest of your life, living amongst the things you cherish.