Last week we noted the challenges — and risks — associated with belly fat. A deeper look reveals how pervasive those risks may be — and how much a well-run workplace wellness program may want to focus on the issue, especially weight management.
We noted a study published in The Lancet titled “Transition from metabolic healthy to unhealthy phenotypes and association with cardiovascular disease risk across BMI categories in 90 257 women (the Nurses’ Health Study): 30 year follow-up from a prospective cohort study.”
The study reports its important conclusions: “Even when metabolic health is maintained during long periods of time, obesity remains a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. However, risks are highest for metabolically unhealthy women across all BMI categories. A large proportion of metabolically healthy women converted to an unhealthy phenotype over time across all BMI categories, which is associated with an increased cardiovascular disease risk.”
But as the New York Times reports, the list of studies connecting belly fat to various chronic diseases and health concerns is extensive.
It reads: “Here’s why visceral fat cells are so important to your well-being. Unlike the cells in subcutaneous fat, visceral fat is essentially an endocrine organ that secretes hormones and a host of other chemicals linked to diseases that commonly afflict older adults. One such substance is called retinol-binding protein 4 (RBP4) that was found in a 16-year study of nurses to increase the risk of developing coronary heart disease. This hazard most likely results from the harmful effects of this protein on insulin resistance, the precursor to Type 2 diabetes, and development of the metabolic syndrome, a complex of cardiac risk factors.”
The piece further notes:
- “The Million Women Study conducted in Britain demonstrated a direct link between the development of coronary heart disease and an increase in waist circumference over a 20-year period.”
- “Cancer risk is also raised by belly fat. The chances of getting colorectal cancer were nearly doubled among postmenopausal women who accumulate visceral fat, a Korean study found.”
- “Breast cancer risk increases as well. In a study of more than 3,000 premenopausal and postmenopausal women in Mumbai, India, those whose waists were nearly as big as their hips faced a three- to four-times greater risk of getting a breast cancer diagnosis than normal-weight women.”
- “A Dutch study published last year linked both total body fat andabdominal fat to a raised risk of breast cancer.”
What might this mean for well-run workplace wellness programs.
As the NYT states: “Given that two-thirds of American women are overweight or obese, weight loss may well be the single best weapon for lowering the high incidence of breast cancer in this country.”