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Dangers of belly fat

WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

A pot belly or muffin top may be easier to disguise than being overweight or obese, but you might be harbouring a hidden health risk under your jumper.

Being a normal weight but having a spare tyre may be more dangerous than having fat all over. A 2015 study has added to the growing body of evidence suggesting belly fat is the worst type of fat to have.

Comparing survival chances

Research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, analysed the data on more than 15,000 men and women aged 18 to 90 years old.

Over a 14 year period people of normal weight but with bulging middles were more likely to die than people officially classed as overweight or even obese. Men were twice as likely to die and women had up to 40% increased risk of death.

Christopher Allen, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation says in a statement: "We all know that watching our weight is important, but often it's forgotten that where you carry the weight makes a difference too. Having more fat around your middle can lead to type 2 diabetes, which greatly increases your risk of having a heart attack or stroke, but there is lots you can do to get rid of this excess weight and lower your risk."

What is belly fat?

"Belly fat, known as visceral fat, is closer to your organs and behaves in a different way to the subcutaneous fat on your hips, thighs and buttocks," says Alison Clark, a spokesperson from the British Dietetic Association. "It produces chemicals and hormones so it's a more dangerous fat, linked to a higher risk of certain types of cancers, cardiovascular diseases and stroke."

The fat in your middle makes toxins that can make your body less sensitive to insulin, which in turn can bring on diabetes.

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