I've been a big guy all my life. In my freshman year of college, my track & field coach told me he wanted to put 35 pounds on me. I was already 6'4" and 210 pounds. But I threw the shot put and discus and he thought I was too skinny. He did it — and then some. As you can imagine, many of the habits I developed in those days were not good. And I've battled them daily ever since.
Fortunately, I've always been a pretty strong guy as well. Most of that weight gain was muscle. But there was plenty of fat as well. However, your health isn't determined as much by your fat as it is by your muscle. And I've enjoyed fairly good health because of my muscle mass. I do worry about belly fat, mainly because it can damage your arteries. Years ago, a study convinced me to take steps to protect myself from this damage. So I eat a ton of veggies and exercise. But there's one thing in particular I do that really adds another level of protection for me. Before I tell you what that is, let me tell you about the study. It'll make a lot of sense.
In this study, the researchers wanted to look at the different types of fat in mice. To conduct the study, they worked with genetically identical mice. And these mice all had one specific defect. They lacked leptin. I told you a few weeks ago about leptin. It's a key fat-metabolizing hormone that plays a role in appetite, metabolism, and reproduction.
Then the researchers took fat cells from normal mice and transplanted them into some of the mice. While doing so, the scientists made a surprise discovery. They noticed that the mice receiving the transplant developed chronic inflammation. And this inflammation concentrated around those transplanted fat cells. The researchers said this had nothing to do with their genetics. Remember, all the mice were identical. So it had to be due to the transplanted cells.
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Once they noticed this, they turned their attention to consider the link these fat cells have to atherosclerosis. Mice don't normally get atherosclerosis. So the researchers used another strain of mice genetically lacking a certain protein. They divided these mice into three groups. They transplanted visceral fat into one group. Then they transplanted subcutaneous fat (the type that's found just under the skin throughout the body) into another group.
Not surprisingly, the mice they injected with the visceral fat took the fast track to atherosclerosis. They developed inflammation just like the leptin-deficient mice did. However, the mice that had the subcutaneous fat transplant didn't develop accelerated atherosclerosis. But inflammation did develop. The authors concluded that visceral fat has something that's strikingly different than all other fat. And this difference can be deadly.
These fat cells are highly inflammatory cells. They also invade your blood vessel walls and causes atherosclerosis. In other words, the fat around your belly can causes systemic inflammation throughout your body. And it can lead to serious cardiovascular disease. That's the bad news.
The good news is the scientists wanted to see if they could reduce this damage without getting rid of the fat. They gave the mice a drug that reduces diabetic inflammation. Not only did the drug reduce the number of macrophages, it also reduced a key biochemical inflammatory marker. And it significantly reduced their risk for developing atherosclerosis.
It's absolutely vital that those of us who struggle to lose weight do everything we can to keep the weight under control. Eat right, exercise, take hormone replacement if necessary, and take supplements that can protect your body against the damage belly fat can cause. Notice it's not the fat under your skin that's the problem. This fat won't hurt you — and in some cases can be protective.
I don't recommend taking drugs to help reduce inflammation. I've detailed the many side effects these can cause in previous issues of Nutrient Insider. Instead, I take Reduloxin, which is one of the best anti-inflammatory supplements I've seen. In fact, it's one of my favorite supplements. It won't completely protect you against the damage belly fat can cause. But when you take it along with the other healthful lifestyle choices I mentioned above, it can give you an added level of protection.
Your insider for better health,
Steve Kroening is the editor of Nutrient Insider, a twice-a-week email newsletter that brings you the latest healing breakthroughs from the world of nutrition and dietary supplements. For over 20 years, Steve has worked hand-in-hand with some of the nation's top doctors, including Drs. Robert Rowen, Frank Shallenberger, Nan Fuchs, William Campbell Douglass, and best-selling author James Balch. Steve is the author of the book Practical Guide to Home Remedies. As a health journalist, Steve's articles have appeared in countless magazines, blogs, and websites.
Circulation, published in advance online January 22, 2008.