Hidden Fat Could Mean Heart Disease Risk
Fat Deep Inside Belly May Be a Sign of Metabolic Syndrome
April 11, 2005 -- If you're one of the increasingly few Americans who don't
get depressed after stepping on a scale, don't think you're off the hook about
Even people of normal weight can have fat folded deep inside their belly,
raising their risk of heart disease and diabetes from a condition called
Even if a person's weight is normal, doctors shouldn't discount the risk of
heart disease, say the researchers. In other words, fat can fool the scale.
When Fat Hides
What did the scale miss, and why does it matter? It all comes down to
metabolic syndrome, says the new study.
Metabolic syndrome is a group of abnormalities that greatly increases the
risk of heart disease and diabetes. It affects about one in five U.S. adults
(22%) and 42% of older men and women, and is becoming increasingly common.
People with metabolic syndrome have at least three of the following
- Waist circumference of 40 inches or more in men and 35 inches or more in
- High blood triglycerides, a blood fat, of 150 milligrams/deciliter or
- HDL ("good") cholesterol of less than 40 milligrams/deciliter in
men and less than 50 milligrams/deciliter in women
- Blood pressure of 130/85 or greater
- Blood sugar of 110 milligrams/deciliter or more
A big girth is an obvious risk factor. But skinnier people can also have fat
tucked deep in their midsection without showing "love handles."
Searching for Fat
The study included more than 3,000 adults in their 70s. All were screened
for metabolic syndrome. They also got medical imaging that revealed hidden
Belly fat was linked to metabolic syndrome, and not just in obese or
overweight people. Participants with normal weight -- and hidden abdominal fat
-- were in the same boat.
Overall, 39% of the entire group had metabolic syndrome. Women had higher
rates than men; so did those who were obese or overweight.
Though metabolic syndrome was more common in overweight (about 40%) and
obese (about 60%) people, it still occurred in 12% of normal-weight men and 22%
of normal-weight women.
Fat's location was important.
Around the waist and inside the abdomen, it raised the risk of metabolic
syndrome. Not so for the legs.
Fat in the thighs was actually associated with a lower risk of metabolic
syndrome, according to the researchers, who included Bret Goodpaster, PhD, of
the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
Burning Belly Fat
No need for high-tech measurements to reduce belly fat.
Exercise, or exercise plus a healthy diet, worked for women with type 2
diabetes in a recent study. Diet alone didn't do the job; exercise was a must,
researchers reported in March issue of The Journal of Clinical
Endocrinology & Metabolism.