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Abdominal Fat and Degenerative Disease

Friday, July 18, 2008


One of my favorite health writers, Larry Trivieri, addressed the issue of abdominal fat
and degenerative disease in his last email like this,  "When it comes to protecting ourselves from degenerative diseases, we need to take an honest look at the size of our bellies." 
 
For years, physicians and patients alike have relied on overall body weight and the body-mass index (a calculation of the body's fat to lean muscle ratio) as reliable measures for determining a person's current health. Physicians also rely on both weight and BMI readings to help assess patients’ future health risks.
 
Weight and BMI measurements are also commonly used to determine patients’ current and future risk for developing disease. That's because both weight and BMI measurements
provide accurate indicators of how much fat is carried on the body. The greater amount of
fat, the greater the risk of developing heart disease, as well as various other chronic health conditions, including cancer, diabetes, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and cataracts.
 
According to a 2007 research study, how much fat a person carries is not as important as where in the body that fat is primarily stored. What researchers who conducted the study found is that the real danger zone for stored fat is in the waist and belly.  This fact has also been suggested in macular degeneration studies that you will find in today's references.
 
The 2007 study, however, conducted by researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, examined data from the still-ongoing Dallas Heart Study, which is evaluating the various risk factors for heart disease.
 
The study included more than 2,700 participants between the ages of 30 and 65, all of whom had completed a general health survey, had their weight and BMI measured, provided blood and urine samples, and had their hips and waistlines measured. The participants also received noninvasive imaging tests, including magneticresonance imaging (MRI) to measure their levels of atherosclerosis, and electron-beam-conducted tomography (EBCT) to measure the amount of calcium in their coronary arteries, which many think is a better predictor of heart disease than elevated colesterol.
 
Five hundred eighty three of the study participants were found to have calcium deposits in their arteries, and 976 were found to have arterial plaque. Both calcium deposits and arterial plaque are significant risk factors for heart disease.
 
The researchers then analyzed various other factors related to the participants with
calcium deposits and arterial plaque, including their age, blood pressure levels,
cholesterol levels, overall medical history, and whether or not there was a presence of
any disease conditions among them, including diabetes. Taking all of these considerations into account, the researcher team for this study determined that the shape of a person’s body, especially his or her belly, is the more accurate indicator of the presence of calcium deposits and arterial plaque.
 
Specifically, what the researchers found was that the if a person’s belly is wider than his or her hips – a measurement known as the “waist-to-hips ratio,” or WHR – there is a much greater risk of calcium deposits and arterial plaque. Therefore, WHR suggests a greater risk for heart attack, stroke, and other types of degenerative disease.

The relationship between WHR and heart disease risk was further confirmed when the researchers separated the study participants into five groups, ranging from the highest to lowest WHR measurements. This revealed that those with the highest WHR has twice the risk of having calcium deposits, and three times the risk of arterial plaque, compared to those with the lowest WHR measurements. This was true even among participants whose overall weight was within normal ranges that previously were considered safe. So long as they had a higher than normal WHR, they were at greater risk for heart disease. According to James de Lemos, MD, one of the researchers who conducted the study, “Even a small pot belly puts us at higher risk when compared to a flat tummy.”

Alarming as the study’s findings are, they also provide us with a simple way of assessing our own risk for developing heart disease that can easily be performed at home. All we have to do is get a measuring tape and measure the circumference around our waist and hips. If the measurement for our waists is higher than that for our hips, we need to take action to reduce the width of our waist and belly.
 
These action steps include owning or buying a measuring tape and using it, adopting a healthier diet, controlling food portions, increasing the amount of daily exercise and physical activity we get, and taking a full-spectrum multiple to insure that our micronutrient needs are met as we cut caloric intake to lose excess weight.
 
Ellen Troyer, MT MA
Biosyntrx Chief Research Officer
 

PEARL

A large number of studies now link degenerative eye disease to excess weight, including that around our middles.  Given that 65% of the U.S. population carries excess weight, with 34% of that number being clinically obese, it's probably time for primary care eye docs to keep a measuring tape in every lane and invite patients to use it if appropriate, after gently discussing the increased risks of developing sight-stealing degenerative eye diseases, with even a small to moderate amount of excess weight.
 
                                          

Crestpoint Management, LTD instrument announcement:
Inamura Capsulorhexis Forceps 2-2-716G-6R

References

The association of differing measures of overweight and obesity with prevalent atherosclerosis: the Dallas Heart Study. See R, Abdullah SM, et al. J Am Coll Cardiol 2007 Aug 21; 50 (8); 752-9 [abstract]
 
Obesity and eye diseases. Cheung N, Wong TY. Surv Ophthalmol.2007 Mar-Apr;52(2): 180-95 [abstract]
 
Measures of obesity and age-related eye diseases. Klein BE, Klein R. et al. Ophthalmic Epidemiol  2001 Sep; 8 (4): 251-62 [abstract]
 
Progression of Age Related Macular Degeneration: Association with Body Mass Index, Waist Circumference and Waist-Hip Ratio. Seddon JM, Cote J, et al. Arch Ophthalmol 2003 121: 785-02 [abstract]
 
A study of the relation between body mass index and the incidence of age related macular degeneration. Moeini HA, Masoudpour H, et al. Br J Ophthalmol 2005 Aug;89(8): 964-6 [abstract]
 
Obesity, lutein metabolism, and age-related macular degeneration: a web of connections. Johnson EJ. Nutr Rev 2005 Jan;63(1):9-15 [abstract]
 
Diabetes, hypertension, and central obesity as cataract risk factors in a black population. The Barbados Eye Study. Ophthalmology 1999 Jan;106(1):35-41 [abstract]