By now, I'm sure we all know this: belly fat is dangerous fat. Not only do we not want it hanging around from an aesthetic perspective (who likes to look at their bulging belly?) , but it's got all kinds of serious health consequences. It ups our risk of heart disease and diabetes, for one.
As if that wasn't enough, there's convincing research that belly fat is linked to early death. A long study of thousands of Europeans found that those with the most belly fat had almost double the risk of premature death as people who (lucky ones!) had the least amount of belly fat. Seems this type of fat - called visceral fat - produces more inflammation (which is responsible for heart disease and a host of other diseases) than other types of fat throughout our bodies. Interestingly, weight had nothing to do with it: regardless of being overweight or not, it was all about waist circumference.
And if you want to stay away from the risk of gallstones, well, guess what? Yup, lose the belly fat.
Now I'm sorry to be a downer...but there's even more important info on belly fat in the news lately. French researchers have found that those love handles we love to hate are related to decreased lung function. It's thought that mechanically, the diaphragm and chest wall are affected by abdominal obesity (which is defined by having a waist circumference of greater than 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men.)
Oh, there are so many health risks to being overweight... too many to mention in one place!
So, what's a woman (or man) to do? You probably know what I'm going to say. Exercise, for one. Exercising at a good pace helps burn this belly fat more effectively than dieting does, according to some experts. And what about diet? A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition voted for a diet rich in whole grains. Don't forget your fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy and protein from lean meat, fish or poultry, too!