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Disease prevention and treatment

Prevent yourself from this common challenge

The currently prevalent belief is that the immediate cause of obesity is net energy imbalance—the organism consumes more usable calories than it expends, wastes, or discards through elimination. Some studies indicate that visceral adiposity, together with lipid dysregulation and decreased insulin sensitivity, is related to the excessive consumption of fructose. Some evidence shows that in regards to juveniles, when free-fructose is present as children's fat cells mature, it makes more of these cells mature into fat cells in the abdominal region. It also caused both visceral fat and subcutaneous fat to be less sensitive to insulin. These effects were not attenuated when compared to similar glucose consumption.

Intake of trans fat from industrial oils has been associated with increased abdominal obesity in men and increased weight and waist circumference in women. These associations were not attenuated when fat intake and calorie intake was accounted for.Greater meat (processed meat, red meat, & poultry) consumption has also been positively associated with greater weight gain, and specifically abdominal obesity, even when accounting for calories. Conversely, studies suggest that oily fish consumption is negatively associated with total body fat and abdominal fat distribution even when body mass remains constant. Similarly, increased soy protein consumption is correlated with lower amounts of abdominal fat in postmenopausal women even when calorie consumption is controlled.

Numerous large studies have demonstrated that eating ultraprocessed food[54] has a positive dose-dependent relationship with both abdominal obesity and general obesity in both men and women. Consuming a diet rich in unprocessed and minimally processed foods is linked with lower obesity risk and less chronic disease. These results are consistent among American, Canadian, Latin American, British, Australian, French, and Spaniard populations.

It has also been shown that quality protein intake during a 24-hour period and the number of times the essential amino acid threshold of approximately 10 g has been achieved is inversely related to the percentage of central abdominal fat. Quality protein uptake is defined as the ratio of essential amino acids to daily dietary protein.

Visceral fat cells will release their metabolic by-products in the portal circulation, where the blood leads straight to the liver. Thus, the excess of triglycerides and fatty acids created by the visceral fat cells will go into the liver and accumulate there. In the liver, most of it will be stored as fat. This concept is known as 'lipotoxicity'.

Alcohol consumption

A study has shown that alcohol consumption is directly associated with waist circumference and with a higher risk of abdominal obesity in men, but not in women. After controlling for energy under-reporting, which have slightly attenuated these associations, it was observed that increasing alcohol consumption significantly increased the risk of exceeding recommended energy intakes in male participants – but not in the small number of female participants (2.13%) with elevated alcohol consumption, even after establishing a lower number of drinks per day to characterize women as consuming a high quantity of alcohol. Further research is needed to determine whether a significant relationship between alcohol consumption and abdominal obesity exists among women who consume higher amounts of alcohol.

A systemic review and meta-analysis failed to find data pointing towards a dose-dependent relationship between beer intake and general obesity or abdominal obesity at low or moderate intake levels (under∼500 mL/day). However, high beer intake (above ∼4 L/wk) appeared to be associated with a higher degree of abdominal obesity specifically, particularly among men.

Other factors

Other environmental factors, such as maternal smoking, estrogenic compounds in the diet, and endocrine-disrupting chemicals may be important also.

Hypercortisolism, such as in Cushing's syndrome, also leads to central obesity. Many prescription drugs, such as dexamethasone and other steroids, can also have side effects resulting in central obesity, especially in the presence of elevated insulin levels.

The prevalence of abdominal obesity is increasing in Western populations, possibly due to a combination of low physical activity and high-calorie diets, and also in developing countries, where it is associated with the urbanization of populations.

Waist measurement (e.g., for BFP standard) is more prone to errors than measuring height and weight (e.g., for BMI standard). It is recommended to use both standards. BMI will illustrate the best estimate of one's total body fatness, while waist measurement gives an estimate of visceral fat and risk of obesity-related disease.


A permanent routine of exercise, eating healthily, and, during periods of being overweight, consuming the same number or fewer calories than used will prevent and help fight obesity. A single pound of fat yields approximately 3500 calories of energy (32 000 kJ energy per kilogram of fat), and weight loss is achieved by reducing energy intake, or increasing energy expenditure, thus achieving a negative balance. Adjunctive therapies which may be prescribed by a physician are orlistat or sibutramine, although the latter has been associated with increased cardiovascular events and strokes and has been withdrawn from the market in the US, the UK, the EU, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Thailand, Egypt and Mexico.

A 2006 study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, suggests that combining cardiovascular (aerobic) exercise with resistance training is more effective than cardiovascular training alone in getting rid of abdominal fat. An additional benefit to exercising is that it reduces stress and insulin levels, which reduce the presence of cortisol, a hormone that leads to more belly fat deposits and leptin resistance.

Self-motivation by understanding the risks associated with abdominal obesity is widely regarded as being far more important than worries about cosmetics. In addition, understanding the health issues linked with abdominal obesity can help in the self-motivation process of losing the abdominal fat. As mentioned above, abdominal fat is linked with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. Specifically it's the deepest layer of belly fat (the fat you cannot see or grab) that poses health risks, as these "visceral" fat cells produce hormones that can affect health (e.g. increased insulin resistance and/or breast cancer risk). The risk increases considering the fact that they are located in the proximity or in between organs in the abdominal cavity. For example, fat next to the liver drains into it, causing a fatty liver, which is a risk factor for insulin resistance, setting the stage for type 2 diabetes. However, visceral fat is more responsive to the circulation of catecholamines.

In the presence of type 2 diabetes, the physician might instead prescribe metformin and thiazolidinediones (rosiglitazone or pioglitazone) as antidiabetic drugs rather than sulfonylurea derivatives. Thiazolidinediones may cause slight weight gain but decrease "pathologic" abdominal fat (visceral fat), and therefore may be prescribed for diabetics with central obesity. Thiazolidinedione has been associated with heart failure and increased cardiovascular risk; so it has been withdrawn from the market in Europe by EMA in 2010.

Low-fat diets may not be an effective long-term intervention for obesity: as Bacon and Aphramor wrote, "The majority of individuals regain virtually all of the weight that was lost during treatment." The Women's Health Initiative ("the largest and longest randomized, controlled dietary intervention clinical trial") found that long-term dietary intervention increased the waist circumference of both the intervention group and the control group, though the increase was smaller for the intervention group. The conclusion was that mean weight decreased significantly in the intervention group from baseline to year 1 by 2.2 kg (P<.001) and was 2.2 kg less than the control group change from baseline at year 1. This difference from baseline between control and intervention groups diminished over time, but a significant difference in weight was maintained through year 9, the end of the study.

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