Beer belly, gut, paunch, whatever you choose to call the layer of fat around the centre of your body, according to a study published in the British Medical Journal it may be increasing your risk of dying early.
The study, which looked at data from more than 2.5million people, revealed that as waist size increases so does all cause mortality. In fact, for every 4in (10cm) of added waist size the chance of dying prematurely increases by 11%.
Researchers believe that belly fat is a more accurate indicator of obesity, and risk for illnesses such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease, than the more commonly-used body mass index (BMI).
"Belly fat is the fat that is stored around the organs in the abdomen and its excess is linked to high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. Therefore, having more belly fat can increase the risk of dying from these diseases," said study author Tauseef Ahmad Khan, from the department of nutritional sciences at the University of Toronto.
"People should be more concerned about their waist rather than focusing only on weight or BMI. Waist is a better indicator of belly fat and while one cannot target where one loses fat from, losing weight through diet and exercise will also reduce waist and therefore belly fat."
There was some good news to come from the study too, because while belly fat was linked to mortality thigh and hip circumference were "inversely associated with all-cause mortality risk", the researchers observed how every 10cm increase in hip circumference was associated with a 10% lower risk of death from all causes, while each 5cm increase in thigh circumference was associated with an 18% lower risk.
How to Lose Belly Fat
Although you can't spot reduce belly fat, you can certainly take steps to remove your paunch with sensible diet and exercise programmes. Check out these how-to guides for more information.
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