Analysis links belly fat to early death from any cause

Having too much fat around your midsection could increase your risk of early death from any cause, a new analysis found.

Researchers in Canada and Iran examined 72 cohort studies involving more than 2.5 million people. The studies explored various measures of weight around the middle of the body, CNN wrote, “long thought to be a significant risk factor for metabolic resistance, which is a precursor to diabetes, heart disease and more.”

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The study, published Wednesday in the journal BMJ, found that for every 10 centimeter increase in belly fat, the risk of death from any cause increased by 8% in women and 12% in men.

Larger hips and thighs, however, were associated with a lower risk of early death. “The results suggest that measures of central adiposity (being severely overweight, or obese) could be used with body mass index as a supplementary approach to determine the risk of premature death.”

This means it isn’t just how much fat you have that matters, it’s where that fat is stored.

“Our results suggest that measures of central adiposity (fat) could be used as a supplementary approach, in combination with body mass index, to determine the risk of premature death,” the authors said.

Why is belly fat worse?

Visceral fat — which is stored in a person’s abdominal cavity — is also known as “active fat” because it influences how hormones function in the body. An excess of visceral fat can, therefore, have potentially dangerous consequences.

Because visceral fat is in the abdominal cavity, it is close to many vital organs, such as the pancreas, liver and intestines.

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The higher the amount of visceral fat a person stores, the more at risk they are for certain health complications, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

According to Medical News Today, the health risks of carrying excess visceral fat also include: heart attacks, raised blood pressure, stroke, breast and colorectal cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Body mass index is a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters. To calculate BMI, check the Adult BMI Calculator or determine BMI by finding your height and weight in this BMI Index Chart.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta:

If your BMI is less than 18.5, it falls within the underweight range.

If your BMI is 18.5 to <25, it falls within the normal range.

If your BMI is 25 to <30, it falls within the overweight range.

If your BMI is 30 or higher, it falls within the obese range.

Obesity is frequently subdivided into categories:

Class 1: BMI of 30 to < 35

Class 2: BMI of 35 to < 40

Class 3: BMI of 40 or higher. Class 3 obesity is sometimes categorized as “extreme” or “severe” obesity

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The problem with BMI, critics say, is that it doesn’t differentiate between lean body mass and fat mass, CNN reported.

Lean body mass is often used interchangeably with the term “fat-free mass.” Lean body mass is the weight of everything in your body minus your nonessential fat. This includes your skin, bones, muscles, organs, ligaments, tendons and body water. The reason it’s important to say “nonessential” is because there is some fat found in your organs and marrow that is essential for metabolism.