Bad news for men with ‘dad bods’: People with big BELLIES are more likely to develop heart disease – regardless of their BMI, study warns
- Scientists assessed previous research on abdominal fat and heart disease
- People with big bellies are at higher risk, even if they were a healthy weight
- The reason for the link remains unclear, but doctors hope the findings will encourage doctors to take abdominal fat into consideration alongside BMI
People with big bellies – including men with ‘dad bods’ and women with ‘muffin tops’ – are more likely to develop heart disease, regardless of their BMI, a new study has warned.
US researchers analysed previous research on managing and treating obesity, particularly abdominal obesity.
They found that people with excess fat around the body’s mid-section have an increased risk of heart disease, even if they are within a healthy weight range.
While the reason for the link remains unclear, the team hopes the findings will encourage doctors to take abdominal fat and BMI measurements when assessing patients’ risk for heart disease.
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People with big bellies – including men with ‘dad bods’ and women with ‘muffin tops’ – are more likely to develop heart disease, regardless of their BMI, a new study has warned
How to calculate BMI
Body mass index (BMI) is a measure of body fat based on your weight in relation to your height.
- BMI = (weight in pounds / (height in inches x height in inches)) x 703
- BMI = (weight in kilograms / (height in meters x height in meters))
- Under 18.5: Underweight
- 18.5 – 24.9: Healthy
- 25 – 29.9: Overweight
- 30 or greater: Obese
In the study, researchers from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland looked at the link between body fat dispersal and heart disease.
Dr Tiffany Powell-Wildy, a researcher on the study, said: ‘This scientific statement provides the most recent research and information on the relationship between obesity and obesity treatment in coronary heart disease, heart failure and arrhythmias.
‘The timing of this information is important because the obesity epidemic contributes significantly to the global burden of cardiovascular disease and numerous chronic health conditions that also impact heart disease.’
The team focused on abdominal obesity, often referred to as visceral adipose tissue (VAT), as a heart disease risk marker.
VAT is determined by waist circumference, the ratio of waist circumference to height, or waist-to-hip ratio.
They found that high VAT was linked to not only an increased risk of heart disease, but also a higher risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Dr Powell-Wildy said: ‘Studies that have examined the relationship between abdominal fat and cardiovascular outcomes confirm that visceral fat is a clear health hazard.’
While the reason for the link remains unclear, it suggests that carrying excess weight around your stomach can put you at higher risk of heart disease, including heart attacks and stroke
What’s more, the team found that the risk-inducing power of abdominal obesity was so strong that people with healthy BMIs but high VAT were at higher risk of heart disease than people with high BMIs but lower VAT.
While the reason for the link remains unclear, it suggests that carrying excess weight around your stomach can put you at higher risk of heart disease, including heart attacks and stroke.
In terms of the best way to lose abdominal fat, the researchers found that performing 150 minutes of physical activity a week was sufficient to reduce belly fat, without reducing fat from other areas of the body.
Based on the findings, the researchers are urging doctors to look at abdominal fat as well as BMI when assessing their patients’ risk of heart disease.
Dr Powell-Wiley added: ‘It’s important to understand how nutrition can be personalized based on genetics or other markers for cardiovascular disease risk.
‘As overweight and obesity prevalence increases among adolescents worldwide, it is critical to address how best to develop upstream primary prevention interventions and better treatment strategies, particularly for young patients with severe obesity.’
While the findings suggest that having a big belly puts you at higher risk of heart disease than carrying weight in other areas of the body, external experts have cautioned that obesity as a whole is still a risk factor for heart disease.
Julie Ward, Senior Cardiac Nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: ‘Obesity as a whole is still a major risk factor, so we can’t ignore BMI completely and it’s important to encourage people to keep their weight in check.
‘There is much we still do not know about the behaviour of fat in the body and why some people pack more fat around their hips, for example, and others around their stomach, so more research is needed to reveal some of these answers.’
OBESITY: ADULTS WITH A BMI OVER 30 ARE SEEN AS OBESE
Obesity is defined as an adult having a BMI of 30 or over.
A healthy person’s BMI – calculated by dividing weight in kg by height in metres, and the answer by the height again – is between 18.5 and 24.9.
Among children, obesity is defined as being in the 95th percentile.
Percentiles compare youngsters to others their same age.
For example, if a three-month-old is in the 40th percentile for weight, that means that 40 per cent of three-month-olds weigh the same or less than that baby.
Around 58 per cent of women and 68 per cent of men in the UK are overweight or obese.
The condition costs the NHS around £6.1billion, out of its approximate £124.7 billion budget, every year.
This is due to obesity increasing a person’s risk of a number of life-threatening conditions.
Such conditions include type 2 diabetes, which can cause kidney disease, blindness and even limb amputations.
Research suggests that at least one in six hospital beds in the UK are taken up by a diabetes patient.
Obesity also raises the risk of heart disease, which kills 315,000 people every year in the UK – making it the number one cause of death.
Carrying dangerous amounts of weight has also been linked to 12 different cancers.
This includes breast, which affects one in eight women at some point in their lives.
Among children, research suggests that 70 per cent of obese youngsters have high blood pressure or raised cholesterol, which puts them at risk of heart disease.
Obese children are also significantly more likely to become obese adults.
And if children are overweight, their obesity in adulthood is often more severe.
As many as one in five children start school in the UK being overweight or obese, which rises to one in three by the time they turn 10.