Apart from feeling bloated and uncomfortable and looking “5 months pregnant”, does it really matter whether we are more apple than pear shaped? Research from the UK Department of Health shows that people in the UK now have fatter stomachs than ever before. Since 1951, women’s waists have increased by 6 ½ inches, and men and children are also becoming dangerously large around the middle.
THE DANGER OF FAT AROUND THE MIDSECTION
According to leading Nutritional Therapist, Dr. Marilyn Glenville, storing fat around the middle is not just a cosmetic issue, but significantly increases our risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, cancer and high blood pressure. Scientists call the cluster of problems associated with apple-shaped fat distribution metabolic syndrome.
Marilyn explains that fat in the stomach region is metabolically more active than fat stored around hips and thighs, acting like a hormone-secreting organ with a mind of its own. Belly fat manufactures agents that cause inflammation, raise blood pressure, secrete estrogen and interfere with insulin. Although useful in small doses, these agents upset the delicate biochemistry of the body and contribute to disease if produced in excess.
So what causes some people to collect fat around their middle while others do not? Storing belly fat is all to do with the action of stress hormones in your body. The stress hormone cortisol is particularly to blame as it maintains the fight-or-flight response by increasing levels of fat and sugar in the bloodstream. If you are in a state of chronic stress, cortisol levels remain elevated or resistant for a long time. All that extra energy in the form of fat and glucose has nowhere to go and is simply redeposited as fat around the middle because it’s close to the liver where it can be quickly converted back into energy.
To make matters worse, people under constant stress feel hungry all the time because their body is urging them to stock up on sugary, fatty foods. Allergic reactions to food also raise levels of cortisol. This form of fat, visceral fat, causes inflammation and impacts the health of the whole body.
Cortisol also inhibits sodium loss through the small intestine, which in turn raises blood pressure. High blood pressure along with inflammation will damage the cardiovascular system and will shorten your life. Inflammation is important for the body to function properly. But when the body is overwhelmed with stress responses, whether it’s emotional or physical, it can affect every major organ system.
Researchers at Emory University have established the link between stress, inflammation and disease. Individuals with major depression were found to have an exaggerated inflammatory response to psychological stress compared to those who do not suffer from depression. Overactive inflammatory response may contribute to a number medical disorders.
There is a metabolic enzyme in the tissues of the body called HSD-11-Beta1, that is responsible for the conversion of inactive stored cortisol (cortisone) to the active hormone cortisol. Interestingly insulin, thyroid hormones and other hormones have an effect on the action HSD-11-Beta1. HSD-11-Beta1 can, in turn, affect insulin and blood glucose.
So what does this mean? Whether you have an imbalance in thyroid hormone, adrenal hormone, insulin spikes or insulin resistance you have created the right situations for the overexpression and abundance of cortisol circulating in the body.
Tips to Reduce Belly Fat
Here are some simple things to do to lessen the possibility of evoking a stress response and therefore creating inflammation. Don’t consume coffee on an empty stomach, especially first thing in the morning. Have coffee with a complex carb and protein – not before. Don’t exercise hard first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. You might think this will burn fat better, but on a empty stomach exercise ends up burning muscle not fat stores. Meditation, Deep Breathing and Laughing can also lower the Stress Response. Breathe and Believe for your Health.
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Click Here for References+
1. Glenville, Maryland. Fat around the Middle. Kyle Cathie Limited, 2006.