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This Is Why Belly Fat Is Especially Dangerous

Eat This, Not That! logo Eat This, Not That! 2020-10-22 Mura Dominko
a person holding a pink shirt: Woman measuring waistline © Shutterstock Woman measuring waistline

A new study has linked belly fat to a higher risk of premature death. And if that wasn't scary enough, the study finds that this causation holds true regardless of overall body fat aka regardless of where you are on the normal to obese weight range.

Each 10-centimeter increase in belly fat raised the risk of death from any cause by 8% for women and by 12% for men. But, they also found that larger hips and thighs are associated with a lower risk of early death—every additional 5 centimeters on the thigh circumference decreased the risk by 18%. (Related: 100 Unhealthiest Foods on the Planet.)

These conclusions were drawn when researchers reviewed 72 studies and examined the data of about 2.5 million participants, tracking them for periods of time ranging from 3 to 24 years. Several measures of fat like waist-to-hip ratio, waist-to-thigh ratio, and waist and thigh circumference were used.

So why is belly fat so much more detrimental to your health than fat on other parts of the body? Because belly fat is a unique signal that your internal organs have a higher amount of fat on them, too.

Visceral fat is basically the fat that you can't see but it build up around various organs like liver, pancreas, and intestines. And this is where the true danger lies—unlike the subcutaneous fat deposits you see on the outside of your body, the visceral fat plays a part in how your hormones function. Also called "active fat," it affects hormones by secreting a protein that leads to an increased resistance to insulin, which can in turn set you up for type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, excess cholesterol, heart disease, some cancers, and Alzheimer's disease.

According to CNN Health, a good way to find out whether your belly fat is in the dangerous zone is by simply measuring your belly circumference with a soft measuring tape. Anything above 35 inches (89 centimeters) for women and 40 inches (102 centimeters) is considered a potentially higher health risk.

But even if you have an unhealthy amount of belly fat, it's never too late to do something about it. Check out The Best Ways to Lose Belly Fat for Good, According to Doctors to jumpstart your belly fat weight loss routine today.

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