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Belly Fat Is Like Real Estate—What Matters Is Location, Location, Location

Excess fat isn’t good for a person’s health, no matter where it is. But saddlebags and ballooning bellies aren’t equivalent.

When it comes to body fat, location counts. Fat lying deep inside the abdomen, called visceral fat, is more perilous than the subcutaneous (meaning “beneath the skin”) fat that people can pinch with their fingers, according to Harvard Women’s Health Watch.

Fat cells aren’t just inert storage depots. They are biologically active cells that act like miniature endocrine organs, making and secreting hormones and other molecules that affect other tissues. Visceral fat cells are particularly dynamic. Their activity has been implicated in a number of chronic conditions, including cardiovascular disease, dementia, and breast and colorectal cancers.

The good news is that visceral fat responds more efficiently to diet and exercise than fat on the hips and thighs, Harvard Women’s Health Watch says.

Here are some approaches that may help to minimize belly fat:

Keep moving. Exercise can help reduce the size of the waist. Even if people don’t lose weight, they lose visceral fat and gain muscle mass. Engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity most days. Both aerobic activity and strength training can help trim visceral fat or prevent its growth.

Eat right. Choose a balanced diet that helps achieve and maintain a healthful weight. Include plenty of calcium; recent research suggests that the more calcium a woman consumes, the less visceral fat she gains.

Get sleep. A five-year study found that adults under age 40 who slept five hours or less a night accumulated significantly more visceral fat. But too much sleep isn’t good, either—young adults who slept more than eight hours also added visceral fat.

Read the full-length article “Taking Aim at Belly Fat” at http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Womens_Health_Watch/2010/August/taking-aim-at-belly-fat?utm_source=womens&utm_medium=pressrelease&utm_campaign=womens0810.


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