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Is Belly Fat the Worst Kind of Fat?

by Emily Milam

While excess belly fat may allow for a more impressive splash when flopping into the pool, it also packs some not so stellar abilities, like leading to higher cholesterol levels and increased risks for cardiovascular disease[1][2]. What’s more, belly fat — also known as visceral fat, abdominal fat, or central adiposity — can lead to type 2 diabetes, a disease that causes blood sugar levels to rise dangerously high[3]. The good news? Some types of midsection weight are less worrisome than others.

Tubby Tummies — Why It Matters

Belly

Photo by Jess Ivy

So why aren’t jelly bellies and thunder thighs equally bad? Of course, excess fat anywhereon the body can contribute to cardiovascular disease and diabetes, but not all fat is created equal: Geography matters[4].

Abdominal fat is stored in two different ways. First, there is subcutaneous fat (the pinchable stuff!), which sits between the skin and the abdominal wall. This fat is more of a holding tank for extra calories, and is less of a health threat since it does not directly surround organs and the blood vessels that keep them healthy[5]Visceral fat, however, sits deeper in the stomach and blankets the abdominal organs[6]. Now, everyone has some amount of visceral fat, but concerns surface when this inner fat exceeds normal levels. In some cases, the fat can invade the organs themselves (a common occurrence in the liver)[7]The organ-swaddling visceral fat negatively affects organ function and integrity by increasing inflammation, clogging blood supplies (which prevents nutrient and oxygen delivery to organs), and eventually causing insulin resistance. Insulin resistance, a pre-cursor to diabetes, is a condition by which the body’s muscle, fat, and liver no longer respond properly to circulating insulin supplies[8]. This means that insulin — a hormone made in the pancreas that tells glucose to enter the body’s cells to fulfill their energy needs — can’t do its job. The result? The body’s cells starve while the excess glucose accumulates in the blood, ultimately damaging organs and vessels throughout the body. What’s more, visceral fat cells also produces hormones that regulate weight and appetite, sometimes leading to further weight gain or increased feelings of hunger[9].

Getting Waisted — The Answer/Debate

They say America is a melting pot, but let’s think of it as a fruit basket. Different body shapes are associated with each gender and type of fat[10]Pear-shaped women have more padding around the butt and thighs (hence, apple bottom jeans — not be confused with apple shape!). These areas harbor mostly subcutaneous fat. Apple-shaped men and women, or those with fat around the middle, have more visceral fat (the dangerous kind). Banana-shaped are relatively thin throughout, or have a more equal distribution of fat. And we can’t forget beer bellies! Beer guzzlers beware — tummies full of Budweiser also count as dangerous visceral fat[11][12].

While calculating body mass index (BMI) is a helpful tool to assess the overall health of an individual’s weight, determining a waist-to-hip ratio with a measuring tape is a better method to pinpoint belly fat[13]Calculate waist-to-hip ratio by dividing the waist’s circumference at its narrowest point (use the belly button as a guide) by the hips’ circumference at their widest points (near the top of the bony protrusions). Ratios of 0.8 and below are healthy, and those above 0.8 suggest an increased risk for heart disease and diabetes. Some studies have found waist circumference to be a better determinant and to better express the amount of belly fat present[14]. Measure waist circumference at the spot right above the hip bones right afer breathing out. Risk for developing obesity-related health problems (like cardiovascular disease) increases in women with waists larger than 35 inches and in men with a circumference large than 40 inches.

Ready to battle the bulge? Thankfully, visceral fat typically surrenders to diet and exercise. Trim the fat with the four pillars of a healthy middle: exercise, diet, sleep, and stress management. While core exercises such as the plank and crunches will firm up abs, they won’t blast the belly fat that lies underneath. Instead, try moderate or vigorous intensity aerobic activity — recent research suggests that sprinting is the best way to lose the love handles[15][16][17]. Complement aerobics with diets low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and carbohydrates (beer lovers, beware), and considerprotein-rich meals and low-fat snacks[18]. And don’t forget to manage life stressors and catch plenty of Zzzs — increased cortisol levels (the stress hormone) and lack of sleep are both tied to abdominal weight gain[19][20].

The Takeaway

Belly (aka visceral) fat can be more harmful than other types in terms of leading to bigger health issues. The good news? It also surrenders more easily to improved fitness and diet than other types!

This article was read and approved by Greatist experts Sherry Pagoto and Lisa Moskovitz

What do you think about the debate between BMI or waist circumference being the better determinant of health risks? Join the conversation in the comments section below! 

Works Cited

  1. Visceral fat positively correlates with cholesterol synthesis in dyslipidaemic patients. Lupattelli, G., Pirro, M., Mannarino, M. et al. Internal Medicine, Angiology and Atherosclerosis, Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, University of Perugia, Italy. European Journal of Clinical Investigation, 2012 Feb;42(2):164-70. []
  2. Cardiovascular disease under the influence of excess visceral fat. Despres, J. Québec Heart Institute, Québec, QC, Canada. Critical Pathways in Cardiology, 2007 Jun;6(2):51-9. []
  3. Insulin resistance and body fat distribution. Yamashita, S., Nakamura, T., Shimomura, I., et al. Second Department of Internal Medicine, Osaka University Medical School, Japan. Diabetes Care, 1996 Mar;19(3):287-91. []
  4. Abdominal visceral and subcutaneous adipose tissue compartments: association with metabolic risk factors in the Framingham Heart Study. Fox, C., Massaro, J., Hoffman, U., et al. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s Framingham Heart Study, Framingham, Mass, USA. Circulation,  2007 Jul 3;116(1):39-48. []
  5. Beneficial effects of subcutaneous fat transplantation on metabolism. Tran, T., Yamamoto, Y., Gesta, S. et al. Joslin Diabetes Center and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA. Cell Metabolism, 2008 May;7(5):410-20. []
  6. Metabolic obesity: the paradox between visceral and subcutaneous fat. Hamdy, O., Porramatikul, S., Al-Ozairi, E. Joslin Diabetes Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA. Current Diabetes Review, 2006 Nov;2(4):367-73. []
  7. Obesity, Visceral Fat, and NAFLD: Querying the Role of Adipokines in the Progression of Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease. Mirza, M. SpR Surgery, Ninewells Hospital, Dundee, UK. ISRN Gastroenterology, 2011;2011:592404. []
  8. Brown fat lipoatrophy and increased visceral adiposity through a concerted adipocytokines overexpression induces vascular insulin resistance and dysfunction. Gomez-Hernandez, A., Otero, Y., de las Heras, N., et al. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Department, School of Pharmacy, Complutense University of Madrid, Madrid, Spain. Endocrinology, 2012 Mar;153(3):1242-55. []
  9. Adipose tissue as an endocrine organ. Galic, S., Oakhill, J., and Steinberg, G. St. Vincent’s Institute of Medical Research and Department of Medicine, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology, 2010 Mar 25;316(2):129-39. []
  10. A weight shape index for assessing risk of disease in 44,820 women. Rimm, A., Hartz, A., and Fischer, M. Department of Medicine, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, 1988;41(5):459-65. []
  11. The association of lifetime alcohol use with measures of abdominal and general adiposity in a large-scale European cohort. Bergmann, M., Schutze, M., Steffen, A., et al. Department of Epidemiology, German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbrücke, Nuthetal, Germany. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2011 Oct;65(10):1079-87. []
  12. Relationship of abdominal obesity with alcohol consumption at population scale. Scroder, H., Morales-Molina, J., Bermejo, S., et al. Lipids and Cardiovascular Epidemiology Research Unit, Institut Municipal d’Investigació Mèdica, Barcelona, Spain. European Journal of Nutrition, 2007 Oct;46(7):369-76. []
  13. Body mass index, waist circumference and waist:hip ratio as predictors of cardiovascular risk–a review of the literature. Huxley, R., Mendis, S., Zhelezyakov, E., et al. Renal and Metabolic Division, The George Institute for International Health, The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2010 Jan;64(1):16-22. []
  14. Waist circumference in children and adolescents correlate with metabolic syndrome and fat deposits in young adults. Spolidoro, JV, Pitrez Filho, ML, Vargas LT, et al. Medical School of the Pontifficia Universidade Catolica do RS, Moinhos de Vento Hospital, Porto Alegre, Brazil. Clinical Nutrition, 2012 Jul 28. []
  15. A systematic review and meta-analysis of the effect of aerobic vs. resistance exercise training on visceral fat. Ismail, I., Keating, S., Baker, M., et al. Discipline of Exercise and Sport Science, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Obesity Reviews, 2012 Jan;13(1):68-91. []
  16. Effects of aerobic vs. resistance training on visceral and liver fat stores, liver enzymes, and insulin resistance by HOMA in overweight adults from STRRIDE AT/RT. Slentz, C., Bateman, L., Willis, L., et al. Div. of Cardiology, Dept. of Medicine, Duke Univ. Medical Center, Durham, NC, USA. American Journal of Physiology: Endocrinology and Metabolism, 2011 Nov;301(5):E1033-9. []
  17. The effect of high-intensity intermittent exercise on body composition of overweight young males. Heydari, M., Freund, J., Boutcher, S.H. School of Medical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. Journal of Obesity, 2012;2012:480467. []
  18. Relationship between bread consumption, body weight, and abdominal fat distribution: evidence from epidemiological studies. Bautista-Castano, I. and Serra-Marjem, L. Department of Clinical Sciences, University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain. Nutrition Reviews, 2012 Apr;70(4):218-33. []
  19. Stress-induced cortisol response and fat distribution in women. Moyer, A., Rodin, J., Grilo, C., et al. Department of Psychology, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA. Obesity Research, 1994 May;2(3):255-62. []
  20. Obesity and metabolic syndrome: Association with chronodisruption, sleep deprivation, and melatonin suppression. Reiter, R., Tan, D., Korkmaz, A., et al. Department of Cellular and Structural Biology, UT Health Science Center , San Antonio, Texas USA. Annals of Medicine, 2011 Jun 13. []

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Digest This: Veganism Debunked

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57 Health Benefits of Going Vegan as Taught to Nurses

57 Health Benefits of Going Vegan

From NursingDegree.net

Vegans are frequently misunderstood as fringe eaters with an unnatural passion for animal rights. While many vegans do feel passionately about animals, its time for others to see that a vegan diet and lifestyle go way beyond animal rights. Following a healthy, balanced vegan diet ensures a host of health benefits as well as prevention of some of the major diseases striking people in North America. Read these blogs to find out about the health benefits or going vegan or just provide better information to your patients.

Nutrition

All of the following nutritional benefits come from a vegan diet full of foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans, and soy products.

  1. Reduced saturated fats. Dairy products and meats contain a large amount ofsaturated fats. By reducing the amount of saturated fats from your diet, you’ll improve your health tremendously, especially when it comes to cardiovascular health.
  2. Carbohydrates. Carbohydrates provide energy for your body. When you don’t have enough carbohydrates, your body will burn muscle tissue.
  3. Fiber. A diet high in fiber (as vegan eating usually is) leads to healthier bowel movements. High fiber diets help fight against colon cancer.
  4. Magnesium. Aiding in the absorption of calcium, magnesium is an often overlooked vitamin in importance to a healthy diet. Nuts, seeds, and dark leafy greens are an excellent source of magnesium.
  5. Potassium. Potassium balances water and acidity in your body and stimulates the kidneys to eliminate toxins. Diets high in potassium have shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and cancer.
  6. Folate. This B vitamin is an important part of a healthy diet. Folate helps with cell repair, generating red and white blood cells, and metabolizing amino acids.
  7. Antioxidants. For protection against cell damage, antioxidants are one of the best ways to help your body. Many researchers also believe that antioxidants helpprotect your body against forming some types of cancer.
  8. Vitamin C. Besides boosting your immune system, Vitamin C also helps keep your gums healthy and helps your bruises heal faster. Vitamin C is also an antioxidant.
  9. Vitamin E. This powerful vitamin has benefits for your heart, skin, eyes, brain, and may even help prevent Alzheimer’s Disease. A diet high in grains, nuts, and dark leafy greens is full of Vitamin E.
  10. Phytochemicals. Plant-based foods provide phytochemicals, which help to prevent and heal the body from cancer, boost protective enzymes, and work with antioxidants in the body.
  11. Protein. That protein is good for your body is no surprise. It may be a surprise to learn that most Americans eat too much protein and in forms such as red meat that are not healthy ways of getting protein. Beans, nuts, peas, lentils, and soy products are all great ways to get the right amount of protein in a vegan diet.

Disease Prevention

Eating a healthy vegan diet has shown to prevent a number of diseases. Find out from the list below what you could potentially avoid just by switching to a healthy, balanced vegan way of eating.

  1. Cardiovascular disease. Eating nuts and whole grains, while eliminating dairy products and meat, will improve your cardiovascular health. A British study indicates that a vegan diet reduces the risk for heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. Vegan diets go far in preventing heart attack and stroke.
  2. Cholesterol. Eliminating any food that comes from an animal and you will eliminate all dietary cholesterol from your diet. Your heart will thank you for that.
  3. Blood pressure. A diet rich in whole grains is beneficial to your health in many ways, including lowering high blood pressure.
  4. Type 2 diabetes. Not only is a vegan diet a weapon against Type 2 diabetes, it is also “easier to follow than the standard diet recommended by the American Diabetic Association.” Read more about it here.
  5. Prostate cancer. A major study showed that men in the early stages of prostate cancer who switched to a vegan diet either stopped the progress of the cancer or may have even reversed the illness.
  6. Colon cancer. Eating a diet consisting of whole grains, along with fresh fruits and vegetables, can greatly reduce your chances of colon cancer.
  7. Breast cancer. Countries where women eat very little meat and animal products have a much lower rate of breast cancer than do the women in countries that consume more animal products.
  8. Macular degeneration. Diets with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens, carrots, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes, can help prevent the onset of age-related macular degeneration.
  9. Cataracts. Much the same way macular degeneration is headed off by a vegan diet, cataracts are also thought to be prevented through the intake of the same fruits and vegetables. Produce high in antioxidants are also believed to help prevent cataracts.
  10. Arthritis. Eliminating dairy consumption has long been connected with alleviating arthritis symptoms, but a new study indicates that a combination of gluten-free and vegan diet is very promising for improving the health of those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.
  11. Osteoporosis. Bone health depends on a balance of neither too much or too little protein, adequate calcium intake, high potassium, and low sodium. With a healthy vegan diet, all four of these points set a perfect scenario for preventing osteoporosis.

Physical Benefits

In addition to good nutrition and disease prevention, eating vegan also provides many physical benefits. Find out how a vegan diet makes your body stronger, more attractive, and more energetic.

  1. Body Mass Index. Several population studies show that a diet without meat leads to lower BMIs–usually an indicator of a healthy weight and lack of fat on the body.
  2. Weight loss. A healthy weight loss is a typical result of a smart vegan diet. Eating vegan eliminates most of the unhealthy foods that tend to cause weight issues. Read more about weight loss and a vegan diet here.
  3. Energy. When following a healthy vegan diet, you will find your energy is much higher. This blog post in Happy Healthy Long Life describes how NFL tight-endTony Gonzalez started eating vegan and gained energy–while playing football.
  4. Healthy skin. The nuts and vitamins A and E from vegetables play a big role in healthy skin, so vegans will usually have good skin health. Many people who switch to a vegan diet will notice a remarkable reduction in blemishes as well.
  5. Longer life. Several studies indicate that those following a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle live an average of three to six years longer than those who do not.
  6. Body odor. Eliminating dairy and red meat from the diet significantly reduces body odor. Going vegan means smelling better.
  7. Bad breath. Vegans frequently experience a reduction in bad breath. Imagine waking up in the morning and not having morning breath.
  8. Hair. Many who follow vegan diets report that their hair becomes stronger, has more body, and looks healthier.
  9. Nails. Healthy vegan diets are also responsible for much stronger, healthier nails. Nail health is said to be an indicator of overall health.
  10. PMS. When switching to a vegan diet, many women tell how PMS symptoms become much less intense or disappear altogether. The elimination of dairy is thought to help with those suffering with PMS.
  11. Migraines. Migraine suffers who go on vegan diets frequently discover relief from their migraines. Read more about the food-migraine connection in this article.
  12. Allergies. Reduction in dairy, meat, and eggs is often tied to alleviation of allergy symptoms. Many vegans report much fewer runny noses and congestion problems.

Too Much in the American Diet

The typical American diet not only consists of too much food, it also relies on too much of unnecessary food products or toxins. The following list explains how a vegan diet can eliminate these problems.

  1. Animal proteins. The average American eats twice as much protein as necessary for a healthy diet and much of that is from red meat. Getting protein from beans and grains is much healthier and reduces the risk for osteoporosis (see above).
  2. Cow’s milk dairy. The human body is not designed to digest cow milk and cow milk dairy products, yet the idea of milk being healthy is pushed through advertising. As many as 75% of people in the world may be lactose intolerant and many people suffer from undiagnosed milk allergies or sensitivities. By eliminating cow’s milk from your diet, you are improving your overall health.
  3. Eggs. Many nutritionists believe that the number of eggs in the American diet is too high. While sometimes disputed, it has been shown that eggs can raise cholesterol levels.
  4. Mercury. Most of the fish and shellfish consumed has mercury in it. While some fish have less than others, it is almost impossible not to be putting mercury in your body when you eat fish.
  5. Sugar. Most people have heard that Americans consume way too much sugar. Relying on other sweeteners that are not synthetic, processed, or derived from animal products is a healthier way to eat. Many vegans do not eat processed sugar due to the fact that most of the cane sugar is refined through activated charcoal, most of which comes from animal bones.

Other Benefits

In addition to the health benefits above, following a vegan lifestyle and diet also provides these benefits as well. From helping the environment to avoiding serious bacterial infections, learn other benefits to eating the vegan way below.

  1. Animals. Many people begin a vegan diet out of concern for animals. Whether opposed to the conditions of animals intended for food or eating animals in general, going vegan will help your conscience rest easily.
  2. Environment. Growing plants takes much fewer resources than growing animals. By eating vegan, you can help reduce the toll on the environment.
  3. E. coliE. coli comes from eating contaminated red meat and is the leading cause of bloody diarrhea. Young children, those with compromised immune systems, and elderly people can become extremely ill or die from E. coli. Eating vegan means completely avoiding the risk of E. coli infection.
  4. Salmonella. Another gastrointestinal illness from animal products, salmonella food poisoning is closely related to E. coli. The most frequent way people contract salmonella food poisoning is through contact with raw eggs or raw chicken meat from chickens infected with salmonella. Again, going vegan means eliminating this risk altogether.
  5. Mad cow disease. It’s safe to say that most people would want to avoid contracting a fatal, non-treatable disease. One way to ensure you don’t get Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is by not eating animals infected with mad cow disease. While the incidence of mad cow disease is not reportedly so high in North America, it does exist.
  6. Global food supply. Feeding grain to animals meant as food sources reduces the amount of food that is available to underdeveloped nations. Many people will go hungry while that same food they could be eating is given to animals raised for slaughter. Eating vegan ensures that you have removed yourself from the participation of this imbalance.
  7. Hormone consumption. Eating animals that have been given hormones to speed growth (a common practice in the meat industry) means those hormones go into your body. Not only can this disrupt the natural balance of your hormones, but some of the hormones given to animals have shown to cause tumor growth in humans.
  8. Antibiotics. Antibiotics are frequently given to feed animals, which can lead to bacterial resistance. Many of the antibiotics used to treat human infections are also used in feed animals.

Read the rest at:  http://www.nursingdegree.net/blog/19/57-health-benefits-of-going-vegan/

Health Plan Costs For Obese And Smokers Could Rise After Supreme Court Ruling

Scotus Obesity

“A little-discussed ramification of Thursday’s landmark Supreme Court health care decision is that it could make things harder for the nation’s heaviest workers.

The decision upholding the Affordable Care Act has cleared the way for a planned increase in the penalties that employers can impose on workers who don’t participate in company wellness programs and, in some cases, who don’t meet certain health targets such as an appropriate body mass index. In other words, the obese may wind up paying penalties for being overweight. Smokers, too, may get hit.”

Read more at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/29/health-plans-obese-smokers-supreme-court_n_1636139.html?utm_hp_ref=tw

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