Belly fat is even worse for us than we’d thought, finds a new study led by Dr. Caroline Fox, associate clinical professor of medicine at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Writing in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, Dr. Fox’s team reported that after they accounted for other risk factors, belly fat greatly increased a person’s risk of heart disease. More than average amounts of belly fat increased the risk of heart disease by 44% and the risk of cancer by 43%. Those with extremely high belly fat had an even greater risk.
Having visceral adiposity, commonly called belly fat, means having fat deposits around the internal organs, including the heart and arteries. It has different biological properties than subcutaneous fat, the more visible kind of fat lying just below the skin.
Using a sophisticated scanning technique to measure visceral adiposity, Dr. Fox’s team studied 3,086 men and women enrolled in the Framingham Heart Study at an average age of 50.
The actual location of the visceral fat mattered less than the total amount in the body. This suggests that visceral fat sends out biochemical messenger molecules that increase the risk of both heart disease and cancer.