Canadian and Iranian researchers have warned that excess fat in the abdomen — called belly fat — is associated with a higher risk of death than overall body fat. The researchers found that gaining weight around the mid-section may also signal the start of a serious health crisis.
They published their findings in the British Medical Journal (BMJ). Explaining the impact of belly fat, a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Medicine in Canada, Tauseef Ahmad Khan, who is also the study author, said this findings means that even if other areas of the body were in good shape, once fat starts to accumulate in the belly region, the risk of dying an early death goes up.
Their position is based on the results of an extensive review of 72 studies involving more than 2.5 million patients from all over the world. Although, body mass index (BMI), has long been considered the gold standard for assessing an individual’s weight status, Khan and his team said it is not precise. It neither specifies exactly where any excess fat is located on the body, nor does it make a distinction between muscle and fat.
To this end, they set out to examine the results of previous investigations that looked for links between excess belly fat and an elevated risk of dying due to any cause. The studies had been conducted between 1999 and 2019 by researchers in the United States (U.S.), Canada, Europe, Australia, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Japan, China, Korea, Iran, and Tobago. All involved adults aged 18 and older, with patients tracked for from three to 24 years.
Previous studies, said Khan, “were limited to older people or just people living in the West. Our study, the largest to date, confirms these results in people living across the world.” By almost any measure, the team concluded that excess belly fat was directly associated with a higher risk for early death. Khan explained that “thigh size is an indicator of the amount of muscle” a person carries, not fat.