Monday, May 23, 2011

Summer Waistlines

Summer usually starts a new round of diets for many people. But even though most try to achieve weight loss to look better in a bathing suit or shorts, there really is a medical reason why we should pay more attention to our waistlines.

Carrying around extra pounds in our midsections is serious business and even more dangerous than extra fat around hips or thighs. Why? That is because belly fat (visceral fat) is worse for your health. Extra weight around the midsection is associated with higher risks for health problems such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and even stroke.

Now that you know losing inches around your midsection is important, how do you assess your risk?

Simply take a tape measure and wrap it around your natural waistline which is located just above your hip bone or at the level of the belly button. When you take your measurement its important not to hold your breath or suck in your stomach. If your waist is more than 40 inches (for men) or 35 inches (for women), you have too much belly fat.

Recently, researchers reported that women aged 45 to 54 now are three times more likely than men in the same age gruup to have a stroke.

Amytis Towfighi, MD, an assistant professor of Neurology at the University of California in Los Angeles, stated that "Tummy fat appears to be to blame...Our hypothesis is abdominal obesity increases the risk of other risk factors -- diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol. Together they drive up the risk of stroke."

Her results were presented at the American Stroke Association International Stroke Conference last year.

So, how can you trim your waistline, feel better and reduce your risk of disease? The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that a calorie controlled diet rich in whole grains cut extra fat from waistlines. Eating more whole grains has other benefits too.

According to Penny Kris-Etherton, PhD, RD, who is a distinguished professor of Nutritional Sciences at Penn State University, "Eating a diet rich in whole grains while reducing refined carbohydrates changes the glucose and insuline response and makes it easier to metabolize fat stores."

Still aren't sure about giving up (or at least reducing) your intake of refined foods like white bread, consider this: eating refined foods like white bread triggers a series of events in your body, starting with elevating your blood sugar levels. That event then increases an insulin response--both of which can cause fat to be deposited more easily.

Of course, there is no magic trick to losing weight. You still need to eat a well balanced, calorie-controlled diet and yes, exercise.

Whether your motivation to diet is due to bathing suit season or not, if your waistline numbers are high, you'll do your body good by losing some weight and inches.

To get you started, WebMD has a calorie calculator called a Food-o-Meter which offers over 37,000 favorite foods, drinks and restaurant meals:

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, January 2008
American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference, 2010, San Antonio
Stroke, January 2009