How belly fat can cause osteoporosis in women
Dr AVTAR SINGH explains the relationship between osteoporosis and obesity in women, and the kind of fat accumulation that is most harmful for them
Obesity has been associated with a number of health problems for a long time. This long list of health problems includes cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, high cholesterol, asthma, sleep apnea, and joint diseases among other diseases. In spite of all this, for a long time it has been believed that obese women are at a lower risk of developing osteoporosis. The excess body fat was believed to be a protection against bone loss. In a recent study, which was presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, it was found that excessive internal abdominal fat may have a damaging effect on the health of your bones.
The study also established that among young women, deep belly fat is bad for the bones which means that obesity is now included as a risk factor for osteoporosis and bone loss. However, not all body fat is the same. There are two kinds of fats — subcutaneous fats that lie just beneath the skin, and visceral or intra-abdominal fats that are deposited deep under the muscle tissue in the abdominal cavity.
The research evaluated the abdominal subcutaneous, visceral and total fat in addition to bone marrow fat and bone mineral density among 50 premenopausal women who had a BMI of 30. Through a series of tests and scans it was observed that women with more visceral fat had higher bone marrow fat and a lower bone mineral density. Further it was observed that no connection could be established between either the subcutaneous fat or total fat and the bone marrow fat or the bone mineral density. This indicates that women who have a lot of belly fat are at a higher risk of unhealthy bones or osteoporosis as compared to the women who have more superficial or subcutaneous fat, or the fat around the hips.
The researchers, however, are not sure about why visceral fat has this impact on the bones leading to bone loss and increasing the risk of osteoporosis. They indicated that it might be due to some particular hormone, or other substance that is generated by the visceral fat which tends to have a damaging effect on the bone mineral density.
Obesity is taking on the status of a fatal condition leading to multiple health problems and the risk of osteoporosis is the latest addition to this ever-growing list. As we discover that fat is actually of two different kinds, we also learn that there is no particular treatment yet that can preferentially get rid of the visceral fat in your belly rather than the subcutaneous fat. It is therefore suggested by medical professionals that you try not to gain any fat as far as possible.
In case you do, try and get rid of it with a healthier lifestyle, including a well planned healthy diet and regular workout, and inculcate better habits. This will not only help you reduce the risk of getting osteoporosis, but also prevent you from the dangers of heart diseases and type 2 diabetes among other things.
The writer is chief orthopaedic surgeon, bone and joint replacement specialist, Amandeep Hospital
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