“Overfat” – the hidden threat to health.
Being overweight is generally a health warning, but the scales don’t work if we are “overfat” – when our bodies are storing unhealthy amounts of visceral fat and our weight appears to be normal.
This is one of the failings of depending upon BMI, as it can’t assess how or where your body stores its excess fat — a distinction that is crucial for cardiovascular health. Harvard Health Publishing reported that by some estimates, the BMI misclassifies nearly 50% of people who are at higher disease risk from excess fat – “overfat” but not overweight.
Some of us have a lot of fat tissue under the skin, others don’t, so their fat particles are more likely to travel in the bloodstream and congregate in the liver, muscles, and other organs, which normally have no fat. This can lead to the accumulation of visceral or “belly” fat — associated with insulin resistance and other metabolic irregularities as well as triggering the release of inflammatory substances that damage the arteries and help increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Further, as we age we tend to lose muscle. Fat frequently gathers within the remaining muscle tissue, causing our proportion of body fat to rise, even when our weight remains constant. Closely linked to body-wide inflammation and diabetes risk, it highlights the value of resistance training, especially as we age, as well as the inadequacy of just depending on the scales.
Waist circumference and waist-to-hip ratio are better indicators of metabolic health than BMI. The easiest way to test yourself is to take the String Test; with a piece of string to matching your height, fold it in two and put it round your waist. If the string fits – or is even loose – your waist to height ratio is where it should be. If it doesn’t make it around your waist, this will be a warning about how much damaging visceral fat you are carrying in a part of your body bad for your health.
The good news is exercise and healthier eating habits can work wonders, with Harvard Health Publishing reporting that losing as little as 7% of our total weight can help lower heart disease risk as the most dangerous visceral fat disappears first.
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