Is your fat making you inflammed?
There is a lot of talk about reducing body fat. Known to doctors as adipose tissue, body fat comes in different forms. The different types of fat have different functions and can affect your health in different ways.
Fat, for example, comes in different colours: brown adipose tissue (BAT) and white adipose tissue (WAT). BAT is a very healthy form of fat found mostly in the neck, chest and back areas. It burns fat cells to produce heat even without exercise, and helps to control body temperature. Excess WAT, on the other hand, is less healthy, angry fat and is associated with inflammation and many common diseases.
Where is your fat?
Where your fat is located is also very important. For a long time, scientists have known of the relationship between excess belly fat and disease. 'American apple-shaped' people, who carry fat in the abdomen, have a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and other problems than 'Jamaican-apple shaped' people, who store fat in the hips and thighs. For this reason, just your waist measurement can indicate if you have an increased risk for these problems.
But there are also different types of belly fat. The fat under your skin is called subcutaneous fat while the fat deep inside surrounding your internal organs is called visceral fat. It can even penetrate into the liver to create a condition called fatty liver disease. This deep belly fat is responsible for many other illnesses. Research has shown that removing subcutaneous abdominal fat using surgeries like liposuction does not improve health as does losing the same amount of inner fat by dieting or exercising. This is because plastic surgery does not remove this visceral fat.
Belly fat and inflammation
The key underlying issue when it comes to body fat and health is inflammation. Inflammation is the body's first defence system, and most of the time it protects us from harmful germs, abnormal cells while promoting healing after injury. The main features of inflammation are heat, swelling, redness and loss of normal function. But when out of control, inflammation can lead to heart attacks, stroke, cancer, allergies, auto-immune illnesses like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer's disease and aggravate a long list of other problems, including diabetes and high blood pressure. Almost all painful conditions are associated with inflammation.
So temporary inflammation is a good and necessary part of the body's response to damage and disease, but chronic, ongoing inflammation promotes these illnesses and even accelerates ageing.
For a long time, the blockage to blood vessels that cause heart attacks and strokes was blamed on the deposit of cholesterol in the arteries. Despite the continuing 'cholesterol hype', we know that these problems are the result of inflammation, often fuelled by too much belly fat.
Fat and inflammation
WAT is not merely a storage dump for excess energy. It is an organ that makes chemicals that influence our appetite, hormones and immune system.
Your fat, especially visceral fat, like any other organ in your body, has an ideal size at which it functions best. Just as how, for example, an enlarged thyroid gland can result in hormonal problems, excess body fat can release too much hormones and inflammatory chemicals. These chemicals create inflammation, so the fatter you are, the more inflamed your body gets and the more disease develops.
The good news is that weight loss, of even a few pounds, can significantly reduce inflammation. As weight is lost, fat cells shrink and release less inflammatory chemicals. The actual number of immune system cells in the fatty tissues is reduced and their inflammatory actions restricted. As belly fat is lost, inflammation in your body decreases.
Evaluate yourself: I strongly recommend having a wellness evaluation that includes a body composition analysis. This will determine your body fat levels as well as your visceral fat. This evaluation, offered by my team of wellness coaches across the island, offers useful information for customising your weight management programme and monitoring your progress.
A waist measurement of more than 34 inches in women and more than 39 inches in men increases your risk of inflammatory diseases like heart attacks, strokes and diabetes by a whopping 500 per cent.
Adjust your diet: I recommend that you lose body fat with an anti- inflammatory diet like the cellular nutrition programme I use. It's not just a matter of cutting back on fatty foods, as your body can easily convert excess starch and sugar into fat and store it in your belly. Get the right information, support and product.
Exercise: This powerfully complements diet but cannot replace it. Experts agree that a successful plan is 20 per cent nutrition and 20 per cent exercise.
Stress: Uncontrolled stress promotes increasing belly fat and inflammation and must be effectively addressed.
- You may email Dr Vendryes at firstname.lastname@example.org or listen to An Ounce of Prevention on POWER 106 FM on Fridays at 8:15 p.m. Details of his new book An Ounce of Prevention - Particularly for Men are available on his website www.tonyvendryes.com.