According to a new study, those who have belly fat despite having a normal weight are more likely to die from diseases than those who are overweight or obese.
The researchers who conducted the study explained that their findings show how the location of the fat on the body can adversely affect one's health, USA Today reported.
For the study, the researchers observed the health conditions of more than 15,000 adult participants in the U.S. through surveys for 14 years. During the course of the study, 3,200 respondents died.
According to the researchers, many of those who died were adult with normal weights but have fat around their midsections. The researchers classified this as central obesity, which was measured based on the ration of their hips and waist.
Based on their data, they discovered that those with central obesity have a higher risk of dying than those who are overweight. The researchers explained that due to the location of the fat in central obesity cases, which is around the midsection, has a different effect than fat spread all over the body.
According to the study's lead author Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, a cardiologist from the Mayo Clinic, the fat in central obesity is deposited in the liver, which then creates substances that can lead to the development of diseases.
Dr. Daniel Neides of the Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic, who was not part of the study, agreed with Lopez-Jimenez and said central obesity is unhealthier than general obesity.
"It's not just the fat you can see when your 'spare tire' rolls over your pant line," he told CBS News. "But it's actually the fat that's deposited within the abdomen and it really covers the organs within the abdominal cavity."
Neides noted that fat around the belly can lead to insulin resistance, which has been found to contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes and other diseases. In addition, this fat also increases the body's production of leptin, a hormone that notifies the brain when the person is already full.
However, due to the spike in leptin production, people can become immune to its effects. Which means even though they are already full, they will still continue to eat.
"So you brain never shuts off or realizes that you're not hungry anymore, so these patients end up overeating and bringing in more sugar and more insulin and it becomes this vicious cycle," Neides explained.
To prevent the development of central obesity, Lopez-Jimenez recommends losing weight properly through a combination of diet and physical exercise.
The study conducted by the researchers was published on November 10 in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.