By now, most of us are well aware of the health risks that are associated with obesity. But did you know that excess abdominal fat in particular carries its own set of risks? A high waist-to-hip ratio, caused by visceral fat setting up shop inside your abdomen and around your organs, has been associated with these five long-term health issues.
#1 Decreased Lung Function
Last year, a team of Finnish researchers found that a large waist circumference is related to decreased lung volume and function. In comparison with other healthy, non-smoking adults who did not have excess abdominal fat, those who carried more fat performed far more poorly on spirometry (breath measurement) tests.
Over time, this decreased lung function can lead to a narrowing of the airway and ultimately chronic lung diseases like asthma.
#2 Arterial Degeneration
Another 2012 study found a significant correlation between abdominal obesity and high incidence of arthrosclerosis and arterial stiffness. The researchers studied both individuals with abdominal obesity and general obesity, as well as healthy individuals, and discovered that for every 0.1 increase in the waist to height ratio, arterial issues worsened. This tendency was particularly pronounced in people with excess abdominal fat. Arterial degeneration can lead to stroke and various forms of heart disease.
#3 POOR BLOOD SUGAR REGULATION
Visceral fat – the type of fat found in people with abdominal obesity – produces a number of hormones that can wreak havoc on your metabolic systems. These hormones can trigger changes to insulin receptors in your body, meaning that insulin starts to become less effective in helping to regulate your blood sugar. This is, of course, one of the major causes of diabetes.
#4 DEMENTIA AND ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE
It turns out that what’s going on in your gut can have a big effect on your brain. A 2010 study found that a high waist-to-hip ratio, as well as the presence of abdominal visceral fat in general, is linked with low brain volume. Low brain volume has in turn been linked with general dementia and may also be a contributing factor in Alzheimer’s disease.
#5 HIGH CHOLESTEROL
Visceral fat can be turned into free fatty acids by the body, which results in the production of LDL (also known as “bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides. In addition, the free fatty acids also reduce the body’s level of HDL (also known as “good”) cholesterol. Along with abdominal obesity’s relationship with arterial degeneration, the cholesterol-related effects of excess belly fat are a perfect storm for heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke.