When It comes to fat, more often than not us blokes carry it around our mid-section. Some wear their fat around their belly like a badge of honour ‘all bought and paid for mate’, some wear it around their backs, the good ol’ ‘back fat’ look.
Now I am not meaning to speak flippantly and be blasé about this matter because recently I can relate, I too have had a little more fat around my back and belly than I wanted. Reduced training, eating as if I was still training, and less sleep than I need has all taken its toll. Consider it nipped in the bud though guys, back in control now I have noticed it happening (creeps up on you doesn’t it).
‘All bought and paid for lads’…
‘Yeah I’ve got a 6-pack, a 6-pack of beers boys, oi oi’. Now I know it’s funny, but is it really? I also know it’s not how all guys are with their belly fat, so I am not at all implying that all men laugh this off in such a way. However, many do and if you ask me (which you have by subscribing to my Daily MANtra) I don’t think heart disease, diabetes or risk of stroke is very humorous, and I certainly don’t consider shortened life expectancy a laughing matter. I know you probably don’t either, which is why you are reading this now, if not for your health then for someone you know and care about.
Now in fairness, I appreciate a lot of this banter I allude to above is a defence mechanism to cover the underlying concern for their health these people have. Blokes laugh off their concerns, we play the ‘man’s man’ card and bury our heads in the sand pretending it doesn’t bother us. I don’t mind so it doesn’t matter.
Well, fat around your waist does matter, it matters a hell of a lot in fact. Don’t just take my word for it either, heed the advice of the Harvard Medical School who says:
“Unlike fat parked on the hips and thighs, fat around the middle produces substances that can create serious health risks.”
What are these ‘substances’ I hear you ask
There are two forms of fat in the body, 90% of the fat we have is known as subcutaneous fat, the fat that lies just below our skin, the ‘pinch an inch’ stuff. The remaining 10% is known as visceral fat and this lies around our organs and in an apron of tissue called the omentum (basically in front of and around our organs in the abdominal region).
Now this matters because unlike subcutaneous fat which is inactive and no more than stores of fat ready to be used for energy as and when needed (if ever), the visceral fat is actually biologically ACTIVE.
Fat cells secrete hormones, bet you didn’t know that (my medical readers, you don’t count). Dr. Barbara B. Kahn, chief of the division of endocrinology, diabetes, and metabolism at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre in Boston explains that ‘the fat cell is an endocrine organ, secreting hormones and other molecules that have far-reaching effects on other tissues,”
Annoyingly, although not at all good for us in amounts surplus to requirement, subcutaneous fat can produce some molecules that are pretty good for us, whereas visceral fat (the stuff around our organs) produces substances and molecules that are bad for health. These substances are known as cytokines.
What do cytokines do?
You’ve heard me shout about it before…Inflammation! Cytokines trigger low-level systemic inflammation, the widespread inflammation within the body increasing the risk of heart disease and diabetes and many more what’s known as ‘chronic conditions’.
Not only this, visceral fat produces a hormone that triggers the release of angiotensin, a type of protein that causes a rise in blood pressure due to the constriction of blood vessels. Not good.
Just for good measure, visceral fat also produces more retinol-binding protein 4 (RBP4), a substance known to increase that insulin resistance I have spoken about in previous articles (a precursor to diabetes). The connection between RBP4 and visceral fat is so strong that they are now close to being able to assess actual visceral fat stores via a blood test specifically targeted at RBP4.
OK enough science already!
Getting a bit murky now isn’t it, but what is clear is this… you CAN reduce your visceral fat levels. Tomorrow I am going to dive into the specifics that YOU can do to reduce your risk of accruing and storing this harmful fat around your organs.