Health: Thick Waist? That’s Almost as Bad as Smoking.

Got measuring tape? Take a second and put it around your waistline. If it’s greater than 35 inches, you’ve got a problem. New research suggests that a thick belly carries just as much of a health risk as smoking a pack a day. According to Pittsburgh neurosurgeon and author of The “Longevity Factor,” Joseph Maroon, MD, FACS, belly fat is metabolically different from other types of fat.  “Fat deposited around the abdominal organs is called visceral or adipose fat.  The increased waist size noted in this important study is due to excessive visceral fat squeezing internal organs and pushing out the abdominal wall.  This type is fat is different than other fat cells in the body and is more likely to release inflammatory molecules than can affect our cardiovascular system and significantly contribute to increased disease risk. Visceral fat also is a major contributor to insulin-resistance, a condition that can lead to diabetes,” says Dr. Maroon, Senior Vice President of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine and nutritional expert.

If you have a belly fat problem (like I did), you need to STOP, DESIST, CEASE consuming copious amounts of sugar and simply carbohydrates. I know I sound like a Jewish grandmother harping on this, but I truly believe that sugar is one, if not the most dangerous additive to the American diet. “The problems sugar causes are far reaching, yet few researchers have been willing to publicly incriminate sugar for the poison that it is,” says Dee McCaffery, CDC and author of “The Science of Skinny.” Sugar throws off your body chemistry and makes the blood acidic, which allows all sorts of problems like overgrowth of yeast and other harmful bacteria. It also leeches out calcium from your teeth and bones and makes them weak. And make no mistake, it is a contributor to heart disease, stroke and of course, diabetes.

Here’s some more tips from Dr. Maroon on how to shrink your belly:

1.   Although the CDC study used waist to hip ratios, in general waist size should be less than 35 inches for women and less than 40 inches for men.

2.   Although body shape plays an important role for fat distribution, inactivity and not food consumption may be more important. Studies have shown that routine exercise can control and reduce the formation of excessive visceral fat better that diet alone. At least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise 4-5 times per week can be effective.

3.   Consider high linoleic safflower oil to selectively reduce visceral fat. A study from Ohio State University published in 2009 showed that approximately 1 2/3 teaspoon or 8 ml daily of safflower oil selectively reduced abdominal visceral fat.3 In the 16-week study, researchers compared SafSlim SAFActive78™ formula with conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and found an average reduction of 6.3 percent belly fat and an average of 20.3 percent increase in adiponectin, an important belly fat hormone that increases as belly fat decreases. Ironically,study participants achieved results with no modifications to their exercise or diet regimens.

4.   Stress management is also critical to control visceral fat stores. Take stress management seriously not only for controlling fat storage locations but also to reduce emotional or stress eating habits that can pack on pounds with high fat and sugary foods.

5.   Sleeping less than 5 hours per night has been shown to be a major risk factor to selectively increase visceral fat store. Adequate sleep, about 7 hours per night, can allow the body time to restore needed hormones used up during the daytime.

6.   Toning abdominal muscles can also help to reduce visceral fat. Although controversial, selective muscle toning can increase overall metabolism and breakdown of visceral fat store.