Sun | Aug 19, 2018

Ounce of Prevention | The fat of the matter

Published:Tuesday | February 27, 2018 | 12:00 AM

Medical research clearly shows that your body composition and body shape are even more important to your health than your body weight.

How much fat your body harbours and where it lies are critical factors influencing health. Sophisticated scales are now available that not only check your weight, but also tell how much fat you are carrying and where in the body it is to be found.

 

What is FAT

 

Body fat, or, as doctors call it, adipose tissue, is made up of fat cells known as adipocytes.The main role of body fat is to store extra energy as chemicals called lipids. But fat also provides cushioning for the body and acts as insulation to reduce energy loss by the body in the form of heat.

Far from being inert blobs of fat, adipose tissue is now recognised as a very active body organ in its own right.

In humans, adipose tissue is found beneath the skin (subcutaneous fat), around internal organs (visceral fat), in the bone marrow (yellow marrow), and in breast tissue (mammary fat). Visceral fat is the unhealthy fat located inside the abdominal cavity. It is packed around and inside organs like the stomach, liver, intestines, kidneys, etc., and is different from the subcutaneous fat underneath the skin.

Most types of body fat are white or yellowish in colour and are called white adipose tissue or WAT. But in the neck and chest is found brown adipose tissue or BAT. This kind of fat, BAT, is metabolically very useful and helps to break down WAT to produce heat. Exposure to cold activates BAT, as do some herbs and drugs used for weight loss.

 

Belly fat PROBLEMS

 

Although individuals have their own unique shapes, there is one place where excess fat is a medical disaster: around the waistline.

Excess truncal fat is referred to as central obesity. Abdominal fat produces an impressive list of powerful chemicals that can impair health. For example, the more belly fat a man has, the lower his level of the male hormone testosterone, while the female hormone oestrogen rises in his bloodstream.

You see, fat cells can convert testosterone into estrogen. This is bad news for health and sexual function.

Young women who carry extra fat in the belly are at risk for hormone disorders like infertility and polycystic ovarian syndrome. In older women, during menopause, their fat tends to migrate from buttocks, hips and thighs up around their waists and this creates problems.

Excess belly fat also produces chemicals called cytokines that cause inflammation with associated pains, aches, tiredness, and unhealthy body chemistry.

All the evidence points to truncal obesity as the most dangerous type of obesity.

Men with a waist measurement greater than 39 inches and women whose waists are more than 34 inches have a 500 per cent increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and cancer, plus a predisposition to many other diseases, including circulatory disorders like strokes, disturbances of cholesterol and triglycerides, and hormonal and inflammatory diseases, to name just a few.

In a real sense, too much fat around your waist may shorten your life in a haste.

I believe that a concentrated campaign to trim the national waistline could empty half of Jamaica's hospital beds, dramatically cut our healthcare costs, and reduce the pain, suffering, and deaths created by the long list of obesity-related illnesses.

Consider this: Last year in Jamaica, over 2,000 deaths were due to diabetes!

 

The SOLUTION

 

With a tape measure, you can easily do your waist measurement or even better, have a body composition analysis done.

With this information, my team of islandwide wellness coaches can help you to develop a customised plan to reduce belly fat and manage weight. The main elements include:

- PLAN YOUR PROTEIN

Protein helps burn fat. The body composition analysis will determine your lean body mass (your non-fat weight). This will tell you exactly the amount of protein needed in your diet each day in order to lose the belly fat, keep your muscles, and change your shape.

You use healthy, low-fat, convenient and economical protein foods to achieve your goals. Delicious plant-based protein shakes make it easy to personalise your protein consumption.

- PRIORITISE FRUITS AND VEGETABLES:

Medical research continues to demonstrate that plant foods, especially fruits and vegetables, contain many health-enhancing substances. Health authorities now recommend that we consume larger amounts of fruits and vegetables than ever before.

For optimal health, men should eat nine and women seven servings of fruit and vegetables each day. Low-calorie fruits and vegetables powerfully facilitate healthy fat loss. Drink lots of water and fat-burning herbal teas.

- PROMOTE AN ACTIVE LIFESTYLE

It is essential to add increased physical activity to the changes in your nutrition. Begin slowly, according to your current fitness level, and increase sensibly. The plan suggests a balance of 80 per cent nutrition and 20 per cent exercise.

Many of our wellness coaches also conduct fitness camps where structured exercise programmes are offered.

So, make the commitment to start shrinking your big belly today.

You may email Dr Vendryes at tonyvendryes@gmail.com or listen to An Ounce of Prevention on POWER106FM on Fridays at 9:10 p.m. Visit www.tonyvendryes.com for details on his books and articles.