A new study that examined more than 400,000 people confirmed that carrying extra weight in your stomach can put you at risk for developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes. In addition, this study provides the strongest evidence yet that belly fat directly corresponds to chronic disease, and, as a result, premature death.
“Belly fat is bad fat,” said Dr. Paul Poirier, from the Institute of Cardiology at Laval University in Quebec, Canada. He explained that it has been linked to high cholesterol, inflammation, heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
“When you have fat around the belly, it’s a lot worse than having the same amount of fat around the hip,” he said. “If your [overall] weight is normal, but you have weight around the middle, it’s bad. If you’ve got a belly above 40 inches for men and 34 inches for women, this is obesity [even if your weight measurements seem normal],” Poirier said.
In the recent conducted study, the participants’ body mass index was recorded, allowing researchers to see where their fat was distributed. As body shape is partially genetic, the researchers looked at the health records of each participant’s ancestors, as well as their genomic data.
The results of the study found that people who carried genes that predisposed them to higher waist-to-hip ratios were 77 percent more likely to have diabetes and 46 percent more likely to have coronary heart disease.
The reason that this study is more accurate than previous studies is because of its inclusion pf genetic risk as a factor-the results can be skewed when researchers only look at a person’s BMI (body mass index). For example, people with belly fat can also have unhealthy tendencies, such as smoking and not exercising.
Dr. Abdullah Naser, CC-BY
Elizabeth Chambers is a health intern with Paste and a freelance writer based out of Athens, Georgia.