Friday, August 14, 2009

Flat Stomach: Need to Know

Belly Fat
By Natalie Vavricka

In a recent AOL poll, we asked our readers to tell us what their least favorite body parts were. The overwhelming answer? "My belly!"
But the concern over a flabby belly is more serious than simply not looking good in a bathing suit. Researchers are finding that abdominal fat leads to higher risks of heart disease, diabetes and even certain types of cancers.

We're all aware that lack of exercise and a diet of burgers and fries will cause our bellies to bloat and expand, but who knew that those late nights at the office, the stress of that big project or the hidden trans fats in our favorite vending machine snacks were adding dangerous inches to our midsections?

In a society where workaholics reign, Americans are more sleep-deprived, stress-ridden and crunched for time than ever before. We want the quickest solutions, the fastest foods (usually supersized), and, despite the caffeine running through our veins, we just can't seem to find the time to work out. Below we've got quick and easy solutions for you to learn how to lose the belly fat once and for all.

Three ways to blast the belly fat:

1. Avoid Trans Fats
2. Get More Sleep
3. Manage Your Stress

Waist-to-Hip Ratio, BMI and Belly Fat: What It All Means
Until recently, BMI or body mass index (a measurement of weight in relation to height), was used as a key factor in determining the likelihood of developing heart disease, diabetes and certain types of cancers. Now, researchers around the world are discovering that BMI is the wrong number to rely on and dangerously misleading.

Typically, a BMI of 20 to 25 is considered normal, the range between 25 to 30 is overweight and more than 30, obese. The problems arise when certain factors, such as muscle mass and fat deposition, are not taken into consideration. Because muscle is much denser than fat and takes up less space, two individuals of the same height and weight could have the same BMI, even though one may have a significantly higher percentage of body fat than the other.

Researchers now know that if most of your fat is in the tummy area, your health risks are greater than if it resides in, say, the hips, thighs or rear (sometimes referred to as the apple versus pear theory.

Dr. Tobias Pischon, lead author of a recent study that focused on the correlation between abdominal fat and colon cancer, stated in a Reuters Health report that this type of fat is more alarming. Belly fat is "metabolically active" and could possibly increase colon cancer risk by raising levels of certain hormones that affect cell growth, including the growth of cancer cells.

Consequently, waist-to-hip ratio (a measurement of waist size divided by hip size) is a more reliable gauge of your risk factors for certain diseases, such as heart attacks. A ratio of above 0.85 for women and above 0.90 for men is higher than average and typically indicates greater risk.

And when it comes to a disease such as colon cancer, women have the highest risk. Female participants of the study with the most abdominal fat had a 48 percent greater chance of developing colon cancer, with men at a slightly lower chance of 39 percent.

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