A study by Queen's University researchers has shown that visceral fat in the abdomen is directly associated with a higher risk of mortality in men.
According to Jennifer Kuk, who is the first author of the study, these findings underline the importance of measuring abdominal fat to predict the risk of future disease and mortality. " This reinforces the need to target visceral fat in therapeutic strategies for dealing with obesity," she says. " Body weight alone is not a sufficient indicator of risk. "
Since visceral fat is strongly correlated with waist circumference, the researchers recommend that waist measurement be a routine measure in clinical practice.
Using computed tomography ( CT ) images, the researchers acquired slices of the abdomen to measure visceral, subcutaneous and liver fat in 291 men. They found that visceral fat alone independently predicted risk of mortality.
" We're trying to find out which factors are most associated with disease," says Ross, noting that earlier studies have shown weight is not the most important indicator. " It's possible to exercise and decrease your risk even though weight may stay the same. "
When looking at diet weight loss versus exercise weight loss, those who exercise tend to lose more visceral fat and maintain muscle fat better than those using strictly a diet approach, he points out. " This reinforces the importance of maintaining regular physical activity. "
Although the current study was restricted to men, excess abdominal fat is a risk factor for women as well, says Kuk. " For both men and women we need to stress the importance of physical activity and measuring your waist. The emphasis of obesity reduction strategies should move away from diet alone and from focusing solely on body weight."
Source: Queen's University, 2006