Tag Archives: Body fat percentage

Normal weight obesity and cardiovascular risk

10 Oct
English: "Love handles" are made up ...

English: “Love handles” are made up of excess fat around hips. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A new study from the Mayo clinic has shown a strong correlation between normal weight obesity and increased risk of illness or death from cardiovascular problems.  Surprisingly, they even found that the normal weight obesity posed an even higher risk than generalized obesity.

What?  How can someone be normal weight and obese at the same time?

There are a couple ways of defining it.  In this particular study researchers defined normal weight obesity as having an increased waist to hip ratio – in other words, the people had a large belly but were relatively thin otherwise.  Others have defined normal weight obesity as a situation in which your percentage of body fat is increased, as in a person with little muscle mass but increased fat tissue, although their weight is still within normal limits.

Another surprising finding is that people whose weight puts them in the obese category may not be at increased risk if they carry the majority of their fat tissue in their legs and hips.  They even said this may have a protective effect.

The Heart & Stroke Foundation has published healthy waist circumference guidelines.  You are at increased cardiovascular risk if your waist measures larger than:

80 centimetres or 31.5” (Chinese & South Asian women)

89 centimetres or 35” (Women & Chinese/South Asian men)

101 centimetres or 40” (men)

So, what should you do to reduce your risk?

  1. Keep active!  The more active you are the more calories you burn and therefore the less you are likely to weigh overall.  If you incorporate some muscle building activity into your routine you will be even better off since research has found increased muscle tissue has a beneficial effect on your cardiovascular health.  You can build muscle by doing exercises that include some form of resistance.  Some examples are lifting weights or using elastic exercise bands.  Using your own body as resistance works too, like when you do push-ups for example.  Doing some serious yard or house work can give you a work out too.
  2. Eat sensibly!  Include protein, vegetables, fruits and whole grains in your diet daily.  A little bit of fat is good too, but too much fat and the wrong kinds of fat can be a problem.  Highly processed foods and sugars should be avoided.  One easy way to make sure you’re choosing healthy foods at the grocery store is by shopping the perimeter of the store.  Most grocery stores are arranged so the fresh fruits, veggies, milk/dairy, meats and fish are on the perimeter with the more processed foods in the centre aisles of the store.  One rule of thumb that I often turn to is – if my Great Grandmother would not recognize the ingredients on a food package, I should probably avoid it, or at least limit its use.

Another thing to keep in mind – the experts agree you really can’t spot reduce.  You can’t get rid of the fat on your belly just by doing lots of crunches.  You need to keep working towards a healthy weight, waist circumference, and muscle to fat ratio by staying on track with your diet & exercise in a general way.

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